Law Enforcement Officers Praised For Showing Restraint
MOAB, Utah – You could spend a hundred years shooting the perfect picture in and around Moab.
Aaron Woodard sure knows. He grew up there.
However, one of his best memories lately is the shot he didn’t take. And in this case, he’s not talking about his camera.
“We were called to a trailer park on an unwanted subject,” said Woodard.
You see, Woodard is a Moab police officer.
He’s been on the job for 16 years.
The call he received from dispatch this past weekend at the Grand Oasis Trailer Park was similar to calls he’s handled throughout career.
“Hopefully, it’s just someone we’re going to send out of there for the night so there are no more problems,” he said.
However, this call had a very different ending.
Woodard and another Moab police officer found the man walking outside after a few minutes and recognized him from past dealings with him. He is 45-year-old Nathaniel Lee.
The officers started talking to him and asking him what he was doing.
“As we’re asking these questions, he’s being very fidgety,” said Woodard. “He’s reaching into his waistband; he’s reaching into his pockets and things like that, so it started making me a little nervous.”
San Juan County deputy Rhett Adair, who was in the area and also responded to the call, saw what Lee was reaching for.
“It was a scary situation,” said deputy Adair. “It was hard for me to see what was exactly coming out, but I had my light on him, and I just see the shine of the knife.”
Without hesitation, all three officers backed away, took out their gun, and yelled at Lee to drop his knife.
“I saw what appeared to be from flexing to relaxing,” said Woodard, talking about Lee’s forearm. “At that time, I pulled my finger off the trigger, told him one more time, and he dropped the knife.”
Officers eventually put Lee in handcuffs without firing a single shot.
Moab police Chief Jim Winder says the officers probably could have shot him because they felt like they were in danger.
However they didn’t.
Winder says the officers handled it about as professionally as possible.
“In law enforcement today, there’s so much discussion about excessive use of force and officers judgment and what their moral approach is,” said Chief Winder.
Winder also feels there’s also something about working in a more rural environment where law enforcement officers aren’t always on edge.
As the former Salt Lake County sheriff, he says he has seen the difference since coming to Moab a year ago.
“Instead of exhibiting what the general public thinks is the ‘all too often approach,’ they saved a man’s life. A man who was high on alcohol and methamphetamine and probably was trying to kill himself and use these officers as an excuse,” said Chief Winder.
Lee in now in jail and will now get the help he needs.
“I hope we can change somebody’s life from this,” said Woodard.
The officers involved also don’t have to live with the responsibility of taking a life.
“I was able to go home and lay down in my bed at night and feel good about the outcome of that call,” said Deputy Adair.
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