Steamboat police officers lauded for saving life
City Council meeting proclamation praises 3 after hospital incident
April 6, 2011
■ Feb. 25, 2011: Police use Taser on man at Steamboat hospital
Steamboat Springs — Three Steamboat Springs Police Department officers have received one of the highest recognitions from the city for their work in preventing a man from taking his own life in February.
A proclamation was read at Tuesday's Steamboat Spring City Council meeting to recognize officers Scott Middleton, Matt Conley and Stuart Hutton.
"Something as grand as this deserves recognition at a City Council meeting," police Capt. Joel Rae said.
The last time such a proclamation was made, Rae recalled, was when the investigations team was recognized for its work in a 2001 murder case.
Tuesday's recognition was related to a Feb. 25 incident that started on Rabbit Ears Pass, when police said a mentally unstable man was traveling from the Front Range to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs with his girlfriend. The man crashed the car several times, once head-on into a Colorado Department of Transportation snowplow, police said.
Officers stopped the car in Steamboat, and the man was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center because of unknown medical problems.
At the hospital, the situation escalated when police said the man became aggressive, grabbed a pair of scissors off a desk and tried to stab himself. Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue emergency responders, hospital security officers and Hutton wrestled with the man while Conley went for the man's hand to keep him from stabbing himself. The man threw Conley, who was relatively new to the force and in training at the time, headfirst into a desk and led police on a chase through the hospital's hallways.
Conley joined Middleton and Hutton in looking for the man, who was eventually found outside an active surgery room.
Middleton then used a Taser on the man "as he was digging into his neck with another pair of scissors he had snatched from a nearby cart," the proclamation states. The man dropped the scissors, and police got him into handcuffs.
"They were on a mission to get that guy into handcuffs so he could not continue to hurt himself," Rae said.
The man was later transferred to a mental health facility, and the Police Department chose not to pursue criminal charges.
"It is my sincere belief that if these officers had not responded in the manner they did … the man would have succeeded in seriously injuring himself or ending his own life," police Chief JD Hays wrote in the proclamation.
"We were going to do anything in our power to prevent him from succeeding," Middleton said after the ceremony.
Emergency responders and family members joined the officers for the reading of the proclamation. YVMC CEO Karl Gills also spoke and expressed his gratitude.
"It's nice to not just catch the bad guys and to be able to help people once in a while," Middleton said.
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com