By Jim Glennon
In the mid-afternoon on October 13, Dayton, OH police officers responded to a residence for a mental health call involving a 29-year-old man named Tyler Patrick. Upon arrival, officers discover that Tyler, who suffers from schizophrenia, has stopped taking his medication, is having hallucinations, and is frightening his mother.
Body cam footage recorded the encounter, which ended in Officer George Kloos, a 10-year Dayton PD veteran, being stabbed in the neck.
There are several observation and training points to be made, discussed and analyzed as you view the body cam footage included in this article.
They include but are certainly not limited to:
- Recognizing someone who is experiencing a schizophrenic episode
- Communicating, influencing and directing someone in such a state
- Body language and preattack indicators
As the encounter begins, Officer Kloos approaches the front door and sees Tyler standing shadowed near the threshold. His right hand is visible, but his left hand isn’t which compels the officer to say, “Can I see your other hand?”
Tyler responds by briefly flashing both of his hands. This, incidentally, is the last time you will see the suspect’s left hand for approximately 15 minutes…the duration of the encounter. The next time it appears, it is grasping a knife and stabbing Officer Kloos in the neck.
Seconds after Tyler flashes his left hand, he puts it in his left front pants pocket and blades away from Officer Kloos, who now takes a few steps into the house. When looking closely at the video, you can spot subtle movements that seem to indicate the suspect is potentially grasping something. At 0:21 secs. in the video, the left front pocket area is illuminated by outside light, making this easier to see. Take a look:
Officer Kloos begins the conversation with, “What’s going on today?” to which he gets no response. “Not feeling it?” Kloos continues. “Are you off your meds? We’ve talked before. Remember? You recognize me?”
Tyler claims he doesn’t remember the officer, but obviously Officer Kloos is familiar with him.
As the officer calmly continues to offer up small talk, Tyler continues to blade his left side away from the officer with his left hand buried in, or near, his pants pocket.
At about 0:45 in the video, the officer, after getting no helpful responses from Tyler, asks if he wants him to talk to his mother, who is seated on a couch behind her son. At this point, Tyler partially turns around, as if trying to see his mother behind him, while clearly favoring his left side, continuing to keep it bladed away from the officer. The movement looks forced and indicative of a desire to keep the left side of his body away from the officer.
The mother tells another officer, who is not yet visible on camera, that her son had walked to the store and when he returned he began “banging on the house.”
When Officer Kloos asks Tyler why he was behaving that way, the suspect says something about a home invasion and someone being in the house. Kloos asks, “So, you think there’s someone in the house?”
Tyler initially responds calmly saying, “I mean, they’re quiet right now,” but then very abruptly becomes agitated. YES, there’s somebody in this house,” he barks confrontationally. “Yes! It is. And it’s not just me. It’s a home invasion. For real.”
When the officer asks Tyler if he would like them to look around, he says they’ll need to go through the attic. The officers asks whether he’s hearing noises there and Tyler says, “It’s about everywhere, and I’m not playin’ no more.”
The officer very calmly responds, “OK. OK.”
Although we don’t know what Tyler is referring to when he says “grabbing it,” it seems as though Tyler may be sensing that the officer is preparing to engage him physically in order to take him away.
Schizophrenia is often misunderstood. Many believe that schizophrenia is synonymous with ‘split personality’ or ‘multiple personality’ disorder. This is, of course, not true.
This misconception could be due to the etymology of the word schizophrenia which comes from the Greek words schizo which means split, and phrene meaning mind.
Also, from the movie Psycho, where Norman Bates was diagnosed as schizophrenic because he had a split personality.
Schizophrenia is chronic brain disorder. A mental illness that is characterized by psychosis, where the person has a difficult time distinguishing between the real world and what they are imagining.
Symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thought. When suffering a schizophrenic episode victims often speak using disjointed sentences, have sudden changes in conversational cadence, display a lack of linear conversation and thought.
In this video when Tyler says, “Is it me or them?” Tyler may be exhibiting paranoia due to his hallucination making him believe that his home is being invaded and occupied by an unseen group of people.
Tyler also says, “I’m not playin’ I’m sorry.” He then looks at Officer Kloos and says “I see you grabbing that. Is it me or them? They have a home invasion. I’ve been here and I’m not playin.” This is an example of someone using disjointed sentences and lacking linear thought.
Although generally calm and controlled, Tyler does show moments of frustration and anger. At 3:53 you’ll see an example of agitation when Tyler angrily says, “I’m not PLAYIN’!”
As Officer Kloos continues to talk to him, Tyler looks at the second officer who’s standing to his right off camera, and says earnestly, “So you don’t hear those people talking on the side right now? You don’t hear nothin’?” (Hallucinating)
Officer Kloos responds, I think, perfectly, “You’re hearing things that aren’t here. I hate to tell you that.” The other officer confirms quietly and calmly, “I don’t hear anything, man.”
They don’t make fun of Tyler. They don’t belittle him, not with their words or actions. They aren’t condescending, they don’t laugh, giggle, or roll their eyes.
But they also don’t partake in the delusions. They are straight forward and honest.
Officer Safety Tactics & Reading Behavior
At 6:26 in the footage, another red flag behavior surfaces. Here, Tyler reaches into the right pocket of his hoodie with his right hand and pulls out a lighter to light a slim “Black & Mild” cigar he’s smoking. The movement, when compared to someone who is not trying to intentionally keep their left hand in their front pants pocket, seems odd, uncomfortable and forced. Almost off balance. A more natural movement would involve some contralateral activity in the left arm.
In our Reading People: Becoming a Body Language Expert, Deescalation, Intervention & Force Mitigation Opportunities and other communication seminars conducted by Calibre Press, we use a term called Anatomical Harmony. This is where we point out the reality that the body works in conjunction with itself. If the right side is active so then, will be the left. If the top is active so follows that the bottom will be also.
Our point is this caution: If any part of the body is noticeably locked down, inactive while other parts are moving, then the person is hiding something. Could be a thought, a plan, something they did, something are going to do or it could be a weapon.
As Officer Kloos repeatedly says they need to take him to the hospital, Tyler shakes his head and says he’s not going to a hospital. At this point it’s clear he is not going to cooperate.
At about 13:20 a third officer arrives.
At 13:50 the officers begin to slowly close in on Tyler.
At 13:52, Tyler stabs Officer Kloos in the neck with a 3”–4” knife. The stabbing takes place stunningly fast…in the blink of an eye. Thankfully the blade missed any major arteries and Officer Kloos was released from the hospital later in the day.
Let’s consider a few factors that may be at play here. Before we do, it’s important to remind everyone that we DO NOT evaluate incidents like this in the context of judgement of the officers involved. We look at these encounters with a direct focus on learning, teaching and keeping officers safe.
Throughout this encounter the officers involved were within feet of Tyler. Granted this is a small living room and in some settings distance is not always much of an option, but perhaps barriers are?
With what we know about speed of attack—like the literally lightning-fast stabbing of Officer Kloos—always look for any opportunity to obstruct someone’s ability to close in on you quickly without hinderance. Is there a chair you can stand behind? A table you can have between you? Is there actually an opportunity to create some distance? If so, take that opportunity.
Familiarity & the Caretaking Role
Officer Kloos, as well as the other officers, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were there as caretakers. There to help and assist a man and his mother both in need.
Kloos reminds Tyler several times that they’ve met before. Although the suspect says he doesn’t remember the officer, obviously there has been prior contact.
Given that the officer doesn’t appear to be on high alert when dealing with Tyler, it’s probably safe to assume those prior contacts occurred without violent incident. Is it possible that prior history could lure an officer into believing that each encounter with that individual would be the same? Any definable reason to believe that Tyler would attack this time? He never did before. Why now?
Who knows, but this time he DID attack…with a knife to the neck.
In police work, the adage, “the best judge of future behavior is prior behavior” is NOT true. Any person can attack any time in any place, regardless of whether they’re known to have a violent history or not. Particularly when you’re dealing with the mentally ill.
Focus & Communication Skills
In our , Deescalation, Intervention & Force Mitigation Opportunities seminars we advise officers that they should look for the opportunity to “lower the temperature.”
The officers in this case did an excellent job of keeping the “temperature” of this encounter low. They spoke calmly and non-confrontationally. They were patient and consoling. In a couple of instances Tyler became agitated, but the officers continued to remain calm which helped make those moments short-lived and without escalation. A great job there.
However, one of the potential pitfalls of intensely focusing on keeping things slow, calm and controlled is that the involved officers may forget to focus just as intensely on the tactical side of things. As officers become deeply concentrated on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it and trying to navigate what the suspect is saying and responding in an “appropriate” fashion— particularly in a situation like this one where the suspect is obviously not speaking rationally— they may lose focus on foundational officer safety principles…like demanding to see and continuing to watch the hands.
Here, for example, the suspect had a hidden left hand throughout the entire encounter and his bladed stance and obvious favoring of his left side should have been a red flag that something was amiss. Unfortunately, that hidden left hand held a knife that ended up being plunged into an officer’s neck. Thankfully, that attack didn’t end as horrifically as it could have.
The officers are aware of, and Tyler clearly is exhibiting, his mental illness, specifically, schizophrenia.
At one point, Officer Kloos confirms by asking Tyler’s mother, whether he’s been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She responded, “He’s got all kinds of diagnoses.”
Definitely a red flag.
In many instances, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to predict the behavior of someone suffering from a serious mental illness. Their attitude, level of cooperativeness and seemingly non-confrontational/non-violent demeanor can change extremely quickly.
When a suspect exhibits signs that they may be mentally ill, particularly when someone confirms that this person has been clinically diagnosed, take tactically sound precautions like those we just mentioned, and be fully prepared to act immediately at any point should things go sideways.
Listen and Evaluate with the Eyes and Ears
Tyler made very clear numerous times that he was “not playing” and that he was not going to be removed from the house without resistance. Obviously, this indicates there is a good chance that to remove Tyler will involve a physical confrontation.
It’s likely the three officers dealing with Tyler believed they could overpower him quickly and without major effort given his comparatively smaller size. That’s understandable, but the results of this incident proved that even a brief fight—like this one that went down in milliseconds—can have deadly results.
If you go to 13:50 in the video you’ll see the approach Officer Kloos takes as he moves in to put hands on Tyler. Slow, calm, open hands.
In hindsight, would there have been a different approach that may have proved safer? Again, this is in hindsight and the “in the moment” context of the situation didn’t immediately indicate what was about to happen, but now knowing the near deadly assault Tyler was planning, the scene plays out as though someone is unknowingly approaching a coiled snake ready to strike.
What might have been done differently?
Hindsight is definitely 20/20.
This video shows the complexity of dealing with people and the particular complications when dealing with people who have a mental illness.
These officers did their best and risked their lives to protect a person from, essentially, himself.
In an instant we see, officers in a Guardian and Caretaker role, forced into a Warrior role. Protecting themselves and others from imminent danger.
And they did that with the utmost professionalism. Stabbed in the neck, Officer Kloos took control of the subject, with the help of the other officers and subdued Tyler without serious injury.
What are your thoughts?
What did we miss here?
Have a personal experience to share?
We’d love to hear your observations and insights.
Please e-mail us at: email@example.com