Bodycam: Police use bean bags on suicidal woman

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police on Tuesday released body camera video from an incident in which they fired bean bag rounds at a woman who was harming herself.

The incident happened Thursday evening near the roundabout at Jefferson Avenue and Cherry Street SE near Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. The Grand Rapids Police Department says the woman cut herself with a knife.

GRPD Officer Kait Bernardo, whose bodycam video was released, can be heard repeatedly asking the woman what her name is, urging her to drop the knife and telling her that police don’t want her to harm herself.

“If you put the knife down, you can come and sit in my car and talk to me,” Bernardo can be heard saying. “…You’re not in any trouble. We just want to know what’s going on here.”

Police gave the woman plenty of space, standing on the other side of the street, while they tried to reason with her and worked out a plan.

“I will talk to you, but you’ve got to throw that knife away,” Bernardo can be heard saying. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself and I don’t want to hurt you.”

“No one’s going to attack you, honey,” Bernardo adds later. “We just want to know what’s going on today.”

“You’ve got to be personal and genuine with people like that because they’re not going to take well to yelling commands at them,” Bernardo told 24 Hour News 8 after the video was released.

>>App users: Watch the 10-minute video

After several minutes, officers realized the woman was not going to drop her knife. They decided to use bean bag rounds, which are fired using a “less-lethal shotgun” carried by patrol supervisors.

“We just couldn’t stand by and let her continue hurting herself,” Bernardo explained to 24 Hour News 8.

An officer fired four bean bags, causing the woman to drop her knife and fall down, at which point police rushed toward her and handcuffed her.

Officers soothed the crying woman, reassuring her that she hadn’t been shot and saying that they wanted to help her.

“They’re just bean bags. They’re just going to bruise you. You’re OK,” Bernardo can be heard saying in her bodycam video.

Eventually, the woman was loaded onto a gurney by EMTs and put into an ambulance. GRPD said she was taken to the hospital for treatment of cuts and a mental evaluation. Criminal charges are not expected.

Bernardo said it was the first time in her 12 years on the force that she had seen the bean bag rounds used on a scene, but far from the first time that she has dealt with an individual in a mental health crisis.

“She was not in a good state of mind and I was hoping that I could help her out with whatever she was going through that day,” Bernardo said. “We always hope for the best. … Sometimes that’s not how it goes. But in this case it went exactly like we hoped it would.”

Police altered the bodycam video to blur the woman’s face and cut out her stating her name to protect her identity.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links