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As Dayton, Bellevue Police Diffuse Violent Situation, Rifle is Left Unattended

Dayton Police will handle internally a situation that began Wednesday afternoon that resulted in a Bellevue Police officer's rifle being left unattended for several minutes while officers from both departments diffused a violent situation.

Dayton Police were called to the 1000 block of Fifth Avenue after receiving a call about a domestic violence situation with shots fired.

A drunk man had attacked his father in his father's home and then fired a gun into the air.

Bellevue Police were called to assist.

There were multiple guns inside the home, the father told police.

Bellevue officer Marc Chapman led negotiations with the drunk man, urging him to come outside so that he could get help. Chapman's body camera captured that conversation, and a video was played Thursday for The River City News at Bellevue Police headquarters during a meeting with Chief Lee Estepp. 

The drunk man, who had struck his father in the face multiple times before trashing the house and firing a shot, begged Chapman to put his rifle down before approaching. Chapman handed his gun off to a Dayton Police officer in order to gain access to the suspect.

During a conversation with the man, who talked about his drinking problem and how he had lost his job and wife and feared going back to jail, that Dayton officer, Brett Lockman, was waved over to the suspect's home and at that time placed Chapman's rifle on the ground, leaning it against a car. That rifle was then unattended for several minutes.

With the situation calmed, the suspect was taken into custody and officers entered the home.

At that point, Chapman's body camera reveals another Dayton officer returning Chapman's rifle and explaining that a neighbor was complaining that it had been left unattended. That neighbor, Matt Haas, posted several photos and a video to Facebook showing the unattended rifle. As of 1:30 p.m., the video had been seen more than 75,000 times and the post shared more than 1,000 times.

It caused a stir on social media late Wednesday night into Thursday morning and now both departments are addressing it.

Chief Estepp said that he invited Haas to headquarters to view the body cam footage so that he could better understand what had happened, leading up to what is being called "a rookie mistake". Haas has yet to file a formal complaint against any officer.

"Basically, Officer Lockman is a young officer, he's new to Dayton and I think it was just a mistake," Estepp said. The chief noted that the suspect's hands were visible and that Chapman was comfortable relinquishing his firearm, handing it off to Lockman. "Normally, in a perfect world, you would walk back to your cruiser and put it in your car (but) he's not going to leave the suspect on the porch and walk back to his car."

Lockman being called over to the scene may have been the source of the confusion that led to the rifle being placed on the ground, since the suspect began to cooperate once the rifle was set aside.

Dayton Police Chief David Halfhill released a statement from Washington, D.C. where he is currently completing a program with the FBI. While he applauded the responding officers for safely diffusing the situation and transporting the suspect to the hospital, Halfhill noted what he called an "accident".

"Unfortunately during the course or the incident another agency’s patrol rifle was accidently set down when the officers were going hands-on with the suspect. Thank you to the neighbors for making this observance and bringing it to the officer’s attention," Halfhill said. "It is unfortunate that this incident happened, but we as police officers are human and do make mistakes. We hold our police officers to a higher standard, and be assured that this mistake will be fully investigated."

Dayton city administrator Michael Giffen said that termination of Lockman is not on the table. No action has been taken yet, he said.

No action is expected against Chapman in Bellevue.

"I consider Officer Chapman's actions to be commendable," Chief Estepp said. "I think he did an outstanding job diffusing a situation with a heavily armed subject in sight who did actually fire a weapon."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo via Matt Haas/Facebook

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