Officers of the Month — March 2009
From National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Corporal Blake E. Wilson and Sergeant Steven Bryan Davis of the Arkansas State Police as its Officers of the Month for March 2009.
In the early morning hours of October 31, 2007, a man who had spent several hours ingesting methamphetamines kidnapped his former wife and their 4-year-old daughter at knifepoint. A concerned friend contacted local authorities, and before long members of the Van Buren County (AR) Sheriff's Office located the trio in the suspect's pickup truck in the parking lot of the local post office. Aware that the suspect was holding the hostages at knifepoint, Sheriff Scott Bradley and his deputies wanted to have the suspect surrender on his own, without having to use force. After some time, Sheriff Bradley contacted the Arkansas State Police and requested a negotiator be sent to the scene.
Just after 8 AM, Corporal Blake Wilson arrived on the scene and assumed the position of lead negotiator. Corporal Wilson immediately noticed that the suspect, who was sitting in the driver's seat, had placed his daughter in his lap with her back against his chest, effectively using her as a human shield. Still worse, the suspect was holding a hunting knife against his daughter's chest, while his terrified former spouse sat beside him holding her daughter's hand. All four doors of the vehicle were locked, but the front passenger's window was partially open, allowing Corporal Wilson to speak with the suspect.
For five hours, Corporal Wilson spoke with the suspect, who became increasingly agitated with each passing hour. At approximately 1 PM, with growing concern that negotiations might not be successful, the Arkansas State Police SWAT team was activated and sent to the scene. By 2:30 PM, Sergeant Steven Bryan Davis, a SWAT member, arrived and was briefed by those already on the scene. Sergeant Davis positioned himself close to Corporal Wilson in order to listen in on the negotiations. As the situation became more intense, the officers could hear the cries of the child as her father pushed the blade of the knife against his daughter's chest, causing her considerable pain.
Suddenly, at approximately 5 PM, the suspect demanded that everyone, with the exception of Corporal Wilson and several family members who had arrived on the scene, move back from the pickup truck. His paranoia heightened by the drugs he had ingested, the suspect insisted that someone was sneaking up to the truck. Corporal Wilson convinced the suspect that he could see for himself that no one else was there, if he would allow the passenger's door to be opened and have the suspect's former spouse exit the vehicle momentarily. As the hostage exited the vehicle, Corporal Wilson removed items from the front seat and unlocked the driver's door using the pickup's electric locks on the passenger door. The ruse was successful: the suspect did not know that Sergeant Davis was on scene, nor did he realize that Corporal Davis had cleared a path and created an entry point into the vehicle.
After 10 hours of negotiations, Corporal Wilson knew it was time to take additional action. He realized the suspect was fatigued and was no longer using both hands to hold the knife against his daughter's chest. Finally, the suspect shifted the knife into his right hand and momentarily lost focus, allowing Corporal Wilson to make his move.
Corporal Wilson dove across the hostage's lap and grabbed the suspect's right wrist, attempting to wrest the knife away from him. Sergeant Davis followed and used a less-than-lethal device to apply a localized electric shock to the suspect, helping to force the knife from the suspect's hand. As the knife fell, members of the SWAT team opened the driver's door and dragged the kidnapper from the pickup. Although terrified and exhausted, neither hostage was seriously injured.
Throughout this highly volatile and lengthy situation, both troopers displayed excellent coordination and communication, as well as sound SWAT and negotiation tactics. They took calculated risks, exercised a wide-range of decision-making controls, and made prudent decisions under tremendous pressure. Knowingly placing themselves in a life-threatening situation, both Corporal Wilson and Sergeant Davis demonstrated bravery and resourcefulness, and they used their personal strengths to ensure that a potential disaster was averted.
Corporal Blake E. Wilson is a 25-year veteran of the Arkansas State Police. He is a member of the Arkansas State Police Crisis Negotiation Team and belongs to the Arkansas Tactical Officers Association. Corporal Wilson has received numerous awards and commendations during his distinguished law enforcement career.
Sergeant Steven Bryan Davis is a 21-year veteran of the Arkansas State Police, including 14 years with the SWAT team. He is a member of the Arkansas State Police Association and has also received numerous awards and commendations throughout his outstanding law enforcement career.