Asbury Park Local 6 members de-escalate incident with suicidal subject
When Asbury Park Local 6 member Anthony Fiorentino responded to a call at the boardwalk of a man attempting to cut his throat and wrists at 4 p.m. on July 6, the first thing he saw was chaos outside the Silverball Retro Arcade.
“Everyone’s scurrying around,” Fiorentino recalled. “Families. Little kids. A lot of yelling, because this guy was standing up in the middle of a boardwalk with blood covering his entire upper body.”
The suicidal subject, a white male in his 30s with a beard and tattoos on his upper body, had vertical lacerations down his wrists and was holding a large pair of scissors up to his neck.
“It wasn’t just near his neck,” Fiorentino relayed. “It was in his neck, and he was pushing up.”
Fiorentino, who played a lead role in the response, decided to observe the subject first. He walked past the subject and noticed there was an opening behind the subject at the edge of the boardwalk.
“I went onto the sand in hopes that maybe I can get behind him,” Fiorentino remembered. “And if he steps close enough to me, I can grab his ankles and maybe get the weapon out of his hand.”
Fiorentino was trying to figure out how to stop the subject from hurting himself further, potentially taking his life or hurting someone else. Meanwhile, 15 other officers from the Asbury Park PD, including Captain Dave Desane and Detective Cynthia Yost, arrived on scene and cleared the boardwalk.
“Just for everybody’s safety,” Fiorentino explained. “They cleared the whole beach for several blocks, hundreds of people, and basically set up a barricade. Because we didn’t know what was going to go on.”
But the subject caught on, noticing Fiorentino approaching from behind. By that time, the other officers had surrounded the subject. With Desane’s leadership, the officers started to de-escalate the situation, negotiating with the subject by giving him a soda or lighting a cigarette and passing it to him.
“Tensions were pretty high,” Fiorentino expressed. “He hadn’t slept in days and continued screaming that he was going to kill himself. And at some points he was screaming at us to kill him.”
After several unsuccessful attempts, the officers realized they would need to secure a less lethal option than what they had to detain the subject. They contacted the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, which sent Officer Joseph Borgia, a Local 314 member, equipped with a taser.
“He kind of hung behind a few of our officers until there was a good time where he could tase him and have him drop the weapon,” Fiorentino mentioned. “So that way we could at least get to him as soon as we can to get him medical attention and just prevent harmful things from happening to anybody.”
The first shot of the taser did not seem to faze the subject, but the second shot to the lower leg worked to defuse the situation. The officers retrieved the scissors and swarmed in to detain the subject against the bench.
When the subject was transported to an ambulance, onlookers, who had piled into businesses like Langosta Lounge due to the incident, applauded the officers for their successful de-escalation method.
“They were all standing at the window watching this whole situation unfold like a movie,” Fiorentino clarified. “They were literally cheering in the restaurant.”
Fiorentino followed the subject to Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center. The subject was treated for significant lacerations to his wrists and forearms and Fiorentino was able to speak to him.
“I tried to talk to him about what brought him to that point,” Fiorentino recalled. “I spoke to him about how he has a lot to live for. And that this is rock bottom, but [he] made it out.”
Fiorentino listed the different resources and programs the subject can utilize to get the help he needs. He mentioned that the subject was in much better spirits as the surgery was going on.
“So many ways that could have ended that would’ve been tragic,” Fiorentino remarked. “It really is great that it worked out the way it did.”
Fiorentino noted that this incident wouldn’t have turned out this way if it hadn’t been for the outstanding teamwork by all the officers involved. It was a group effort to secure the perimeter, de-escalate the situation and detain the subject.
“The goal was just to get him to drop the weapon,” Fiorentino explained. “And we wanted to get him medical help as soon as we could. And after that, I just tried to prepare him as best I can by speaking with him to actually follow up and get the help he needs to hopefully start fresh and have a normal life.”