Police say helicopter search was to find suicidal man

Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2020 6:19:51 PM

HAWLEY — Police say the heavy presence of state troopers and helicopters in Hawley and the surrounding communities Thursday night was to locate a suicidal man before he harmed himself or others.

The man, found by helicopter in a field near Labelle Road, is the same individual who caused a stir on social media by using a racial slur and claiming he was going to kill black people, according to Massachusetts State Police spokesperson David Procopio, after the Greenfield Recorder relayed a screenshot of the social media post.

It was not immediately clear what charges the man will face as a result of the threats, but Procopio said State Police are investigating.

Jared Bellows, police chief in both Hawley and Charlemont, said he was aware of the troubling video, but that the case is being overseen by Massachusetts State Police.

The incident on Thursday began, according to Procopio, when the State Police barracks in Shelburne Falls was contacted at 4:39 p.m. by a 19-year-old Buckland man who said he was suicidal, armed with multiple guns and intoxicated. Procopio said the call then disconnected, and there was no response when a trooper called and texted the man, whose location was narrowed to an 11-mile radius through his phone’s GPS coordinates.

A State Police Air Wing helicopter flight crew spotted a pickup truck parked several hundred yards out in a field near Labelle Road at 5:31 p.m., and troopers aboard the helicopter saw a man inside the pickup, according to Procopio. The truck’s license plate was determined to be registered to a relative of the suicidal caller.

Having confirmed the truck’s lone occupant was the Buckland man, State Police ground units — including Troop B patrols, K-9 teams, and the department’s Special Tactical Operations (STOP) Team — positioned themselves on Labelle Road, Procopio said. Troopers saw the man holding the rifle inside the truck at one point. The Air Wing provided overflight support throughout the incident.

State Police crisis negotiators responded, gathered information about the man and established phone contact with him, according to Procopio. At 12:12 a.m. on Friday, negotiators persuaded him to exit the truck. He was taken into custody and transported to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield for evaluation.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.om or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

An earlier version of this story stated Hawley and Charlemont Police Chief Jared Bellows said he had not seen the video with the racial slur and threat to kill black people. Bellows later told the Greenfield Recorder he misunderstood and that he had in fact seen the video.


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