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Orem police use specialized training to calm armed gunman

OREM — An Orem police dispatch center received frantic calls last month about a man with a gun. But when officers arrived at the scene, they quickly calmed the man down and prevented a gun tragedy on the Wasatch Front.

Officers began receiving calls April 22 of a man “freaking out” with “a gun across his chest” in the window of his house in a Utah Valley neighborhood. Dispatch tapes reveal the man was pointing a rifle at a 911 caller, who signaled for police.

Officers rushed to the scene and found Andrew Heaps in an armed and apparently distraught state, Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez said.

“He was waving the gun, screaming and yelling out the window,” Martinez said. “Our officers were able to talk him down and got him to come out of the house with no weapon.”

Martinez said officers on scene relied on the department’s training with mentally ill subjects, which helped him convince the man to surrender without incident. Around 90 percent of Orem police officers are trained in crisis intervention techniques (CIT), which helps them better understand and peacefully resolve potentially violent situations involving a mentally ill subject.

“It’s absolutely imperative our officers, especially our patrol officers, are trained on this,” Martinez added.

Prevention is critical in such situations, according to mental health professionals. Knowing a family member has a history of mental illness can make all the difference.

“Family members or others may be concerned about not wanting to put ideas in someone’s head, and that is really not the case,” said Dr. Juergen Korbanka of Wasatch Mental Health. “So when there are any concerns, I think it is important to talk to the family members and ask those questions — have you ever thought of hurting yourself, or someone else?”

Heaps was booked into the Utah County Jail and could face criminal charges. But because of the Orem Police Department specialized training and quick thinking, no one was hurt.

“A lot of times, these people don’t think they are doing anything wrong,” Martinez said, “and they are trying to protect themselves from whatever they are going through.”