UPDATE: Chief Shares Details of Mount Vernon-Area Pool Incident
On Monday, May 30 around 1:30 p.m., police responded to a report of a man who appeared to be experiencing a mental crisis at a neighborhood pool in the 5800 block of Cameron Run Terrace, in Alexandria (Fairfax County). An investigation determined the 22-year-old man was employed at the pool as a lifeguard and had started exhibiting signs of unusual and erratic behavior at his home the night before. He shared with an acquaintance that he was hearing noises and they were telling him to do things or go places. His roommates were reportedly concerned and attempted to talk to him but he became irate and used a chair to strike a door in the home. Then, the man left the home with his girlfriend, claiming he needed to go to church in the early morning hours. They returned home later and he appeared to be acting rational. No one was injured and this incident was not reported to police at the time it occurred.
On the day of the police incident, prior to police involvement, the man reported to work at the pool and got into at least one argument with guests over the wristbands required for entry. He claimed they were not the right color and allegedly grabbed one guest, a 24-year-old woman, by the arm to remove her wristband. Guests notified pool management about this incident and several of them left. The lifeguard supervisor, who is a certified lifeguard, arrived and observed the man’s erratic and strange behavior, notified property management and advised the remaining pool guests to clear the area. He remained on scene and summoned police to assist.
The Department of Public Safety Communications dispatched officers around 1:37 p.m. for a report of a man talking to himself in a foreign language, walking around and who appeared to be emotionally or mentally distressed. Officers arrived on scene around 1:40 p.m. and observed the man, who appeared to be talking on his cell phone. They attempted to communicate with him several times. The man, without appearing to acknowledge the officers’ presence, would yell and blow his whistle and move away from the officers. The officers, realizing the man was experiencing a mental crisis and unable to communicate with him, immediately called for a Polish-speaking officer and an officer specifically trained in crisis intervention.
As these and other officers arrived to assist, the man continued to talk to himself and exhibit unusual and erratic behavior. He entered the pool and fully submerged at least twice. On two of those occasions, the man threw his cell phone into the water and went in to retrieve it. Each time he went in, he fully submerged himself in the deep end of the pool, remained there for a period of time, moved around under the water then would later surface. Officers could see him clearly through the water and monitored his actions. At least one officer removed his gear just in case it became necessary to take action in the water or assist the lifeguard supervisor.
After being under water for some time, the man would surface and exit the pool, out of breath. Upon exiting, he continued to pace around, talk to himself or shout and blow his whistle. At one point, he climbed the lifeguard tower and shouted. His behavior appeared tense and agitated, and he did not respond to any of the officers’ attempts to talk, but he never became aggressive toward them and there was no apparent indication, based on statement heard or actions observed, he intended to harm himself or others.
Officers continued their efforts to talk to the man and provide assistance. One of the man’s acquaintances responded to the pool and attempted to talk to him, but he did not respond to his pleas either. For at least a third time, the man entered the pool. He submerged himself once more. Officers moved to where he was in the pool to monitor him. After realizing the man had been under longer than the previous times, the lifeguard supervisor dove in to get him out. Two officers jumped in to assist.
When they exited the pool with the man, they could see he needed immediate medical attention, began CPR and summoned emergency medical personnel, who had been waiting on the perimeter. Officers and emergency personnel successfully resuscitated the man and immediately transported him to Inova Fairfax Hospital. On the way to the hospital, medics reported the man became belligerent and had to pull to the side of the road to have police assist in restraining him. At the hospital, the man’s condition stabilized. Police notified hospital staff of the mental crisis he appeared to be in to ensure he would be evaluated by a mental health professional and receive any necessary assistance. Neither drugs nor alcohol appeared to be factors in this incident.
Further investigation determined the man, while exhibiting strange and unusual behavior, made no statements about wanting to hurt himself or anyone else and he was not in violation of any criminal laws. Police cannot take law enforcement action on a person who is not in violation of a criminal law and as public caretakers, police cannot take a person into involuntary physical custody unless they have reason to believe that someone is in imminent danger to themselves or others or is substantially unable to care for themselves, and therefore, requires immediate psychiatric care.
Without any of these factors present, the goal of officers on the scene was to contain the situation, make every effort to keep the man calm and less agitated and get him mental health assistance. They monitored him closely, both in and out of the water, and once it became apparent he was trying to harm himself, they took immediate action to prevent this, then ensured he received proper treatment and care. Chief Roessler supports the appropriate critical decision-making skills used by his officers in dealing with a person in mental crisis and the follow up to provide mental health resources to a community member in need.
This afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., officers were called to the 5800 block of Cameron Run Terrace at Riverside Park Swimming Pool, in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, for a report of a 22-year-old life-guard experiencing emotional distress. Officers attempted to communicate with the subject, using crisis intervention training techniques; however, the man continued to ignore the officer’s attempted communication.
The pool was evacuated and officers continued to attempt to communicate with him but he instead jumped in the pool, swam, exited the pool, and began talking out loud. The man only spoke Polish and a Polish-speaking officer was summoned to the scene. This officer continued to attempt communication to no avail. The distressed man then jumped back into the pool and sank to the bottom at which point another lifeguard along with the assistance of the officers were able to bring the man out of the water. The man was unresponsive when he was taken out of the pool. Fire and Rescue personnel assisted the man and after regaining consciousness, he became combative. He was taken into custody for his own protection and transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital in a non-life-threatening condition where he will be evaluated.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail at www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES/274637 or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.