SPRINGFIELD — Police Chief Joseph Daly began 2020 with his continuing practice of commendations for officers before the Board of Commissioners. In relating activities which merited these honors, Daly made clear that was what went right could have easily gone very wrong.
In November 2019 the department had contact with a new resident who was known to have serious mental health issues. Called to the house, the individual was exhibiting behavior which, officers thought, warranted the family to request temporary commitment. The family refused at the time.
In mid-December police were again called and had the expectation to serve commitment papers. Several officers “put together a detail” to carry out necessary action.
“That was the plan, but the individual wasn’t following our plan,” said Daly, noting the person had been away from the home which officers staked out.
Ultimately the individual returned and went inside the house. Daly said his officers were aware of the probability if not certainty of firearms in the house. When the person emerged to retrieve some goods from his car Officer Sean Clifton went towards him, at which point the individual went for a gun in his waistband. Clifton rushed the man.
“If Officer Clifton broke off his advancement when he observed the firearm, and one or both of the handguns the suspect was carrying was deployed, there would have been a tragic ending,” said Daly.
The suspect shot himself in the leg during the struggle, but Clifton and the other four officers approached to subdue and apprehend the individual. Two shots were fired by department personnel, one further wounding the suspect in the leg.
“The officers knew they were dealing with an individual in mental health crisis and it tempered their response. That is the reason Officer Clifton tried to contain him physically, but that just didn’t work out. Although conditions warranting the use of deadly force were present, our officers showed remarkable restraint, only wounding the suspect who will make a full recovery,” Daly said.
Daly presented Clifton with a Commendation for Valor, the highest honor the police department can bestow. It represented Clifton’s actions to protect his fellow officers at great personal risk. A Citation for Bravery was awarded to Lt. Joseph Sadoff, and officers Keith Robbins, Andrew Graff and Kevin Oswald. Each commendation cited their individual actions.
Family, friends and others attending the meeting stood and applauded the officers. Commissioners President Jeff Rudolph recognized the men for their bravery and professional expertise. Rudolph added of the incident, “That was not all in day’s work, and a tribute to the Springfield Police Department.”
In other business, the board welcomed Suzanne Hoffman now representing the Third Ward after the retirement of Lee Janizcek. Commissioners approved the application of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza Restaurant in the former Sears Appliance store in Sproul Village Shopping Center. A conditional use hearing had been held on the matter prior to the board meeting.