DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines police say a five-hour standoff this weekend could have been deadly with the wrong approach, but a key position within the department helped bring a non-violent resolution.
A terrified Des Moines resident called police at 2:30 a.m. Sunday. “The whole thing started with a pretty dangerous situation,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.
Police say a resident at the apartment complex at 2400 Hickman Road was being threatened by a man with a knife. “When the first officer got on scene, they encountered him there in the hallway armed with a knife,” Parizek said.
Richard Lee Ochoa, 59, refused to surrender and returned to his apartment unit where officers learned he had an even more dangerous weapon. Parizek said, “They learned from another neighbor he also had a shotgun in the house and that there had been some erratic behavior.”
Officers needed to quickly calm the situation. “We had to redo our plan and figure out the safest way to resolve this for him, for us and for everyone else in that building,” said Parizek.
Through their interactions, officers were looking for signs of mental health issues or substance abuse. Parizek said, “There was evidence of at least of one of those and possibility of the other.”
Deescalation tactics were deployed. “If you look at everything like it is a nail, then everything you do is going to be with a hammer,” Parizek said.
The standoff continued into a fifth hour and police were prepared for plan B. Parizek said, “We did rally up the SWAT team and get those resources in place should we need them.”
Parizek says the deescalation kept Ochoa at bay, but the ability to have a certified crisis negotiator on staff may have been the key to taking a known felon into custody peacefully. “When you take that negotiator who has that extra layer of training and have him there in that critical moment, that was very valuable to us,” said Parizek.
They were able to call in a crucial resource that may have saved both victim and suspect. Parizek said, “Taking a situation like this where lives are truly at risk and working it and breaking it down to where it is a peaceful resolution, it’s one of the most useful tools we have.”
Ochoa was booked into the Polk County Jail on numerous felony weapons charges along with harassment and attempted burglary.