How Normal Police resolved the Veterans Parkway standoff without loss of life
Monday’s standoff on Veterans Parkway was unusual: A man with a gun threatened to shoot police, shutting down traffic at one of Bloomington-Normal’s busiest intersections.
But police in Bloomington-Normal are no strangers to calls involving someone with mental health or behavioral health issues.
“More and more, mental health and behavioral health calls – our officers deal with those every day, multiple times a day,” said Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner. “But this was certainly a very serious situation.”
Police were called to Veterans and Parkway (just north of College Avenue) around 4:20 p.m. Monday for reports of a “disorderly individual, yelling and throwing items at vehicles.”
When officers arrived, the 38-year-old man displayed what appeared to be a gun.
“The individual was in some type of crisis,” Bleichner said. “He had made threats to shoot the officers, asking them to shoot him during our encounter with him.”
But police didn’t shoot him. Officers began intervention and de-escalation with him.
They also took precautions – putting themselves at a distance, using ballistic shields, calling in support.
“At the end of the day, through talking with the individual – and unfortunately he wasn’t able to comply – officers were able to use a less lethal option, Taser, and were able to safely take the person into custody,” Bleichner said.
Bleichner noted that McLean County does have several newer tools designed to deal with those with mental or behavioral health issues. The Frequent User System Engagement program, or FUSE, is for those with complex medical and/or behavioral health needs. The Triage Center is for those experiencing a mental health crisis, who are not violent in behavior. The recent McLean County jail expansion was conceived in part to serve those with mental health issues.
Monday’s situation evolved very quickly. It was over in 48 minutes, and Veterans reopened to traffic by 5:30 p.m. Bleichner said they could have called in crisis services, but the situation was resolved too fast.
The 38-year-old man was Tasered but otherwise unharmed. (The gun ended up being fake — a replica handgun.) He was taken into protective custody and sent to the hospital. Bleichner said they're talking to the state’s attorney’s office and haven't ruled out criminal charges, but he said that's not the focus.
“If we can get him the help and get him restored and back on track without having to compound that with any criminal charges, that’s our goal,” Bleichner said.