A man who drove through a fence and nearly onto the tarmac at Bowerman Airfield last week told an officer that “God told him to do it.” That officer was able to get the man help and said that the fence stopped him from driving onto the tarmac where a plane was preparing to take off.
A press release from the Hoquiam Police Department said that on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 1227 hours, Hoquiam officers were advised of a vehicle driving recklessly on Airport Way toward Bowerman Field. Officers were unavailable to immediately respond as they were attempting to locate a suspect who fled from a traffic stop behind an apartment building on 8th Street.
A few minutes later, the reporting party called back to advise the vehicle, described as a black Honda Pilot SUV, was parked at the airport. A minute later, the caller reported the driver had just rammed the fence surrounding the airport runway.
Sgt. Salstrom responded to the scene and located the vehicle crashed into a security fence on an access road to the airstrip tarmac. The 43-year old male driver was behind the wheel; both airbags had deployed, but the driver did not appear to be injured except for a scratch on his nose.
As Sgt. Salstrom attempted to talk to the driver, he found the driver to be almost comatose behind the wheel. The driver stared straight ahead and was clutching a twig in his hand. The driver commented “God told him to do it”.
Sgt. Salstrom utilized skills from Crisis Intervention Techniques training to keep the situation calm. He was able to secure the keys to prevent the man from driving off and requested an ambulance respond, but without emergency lights or siren.
Upon the arrival of the Hoquiam Fire Department, paramedics were able to remove the driver and transport him to Community Hospital to evaluate him for any injures as well as a mental health evaluation. The vehicle sustained significant damage and was towed from the scene.
Thankfully, the driver was unable to get through the gate and out onto the airport as there was a small, single-engine aircraft actively using the tarmac.
“Over the past twenty years, the incidents facing officers which involve mental illness have increased. Officers are constantly challenged with evaluating the problem and trying to intervene on the street with people who should probably be in a hospital receiving treatment. Although Crisis Intervention Technique training is now required for all peace officers in Washington State, we have a long way to go to address the underlying mental health crisis in our state.”