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SERT rescues woman, deploys gas, to end standoff near S.E. 52nd

by: Courtesy of Portland Police Bureau, Officials said Gaylon Amen was the troubled man who would not surrender to police – until he was tear-gassed out of the home.

Brentwood-Darlington neighbors living near the house in the 4800 block of secluded S.E. Rex Drive say the man's behavior wasn't typical - in fact, he was definitely acting abnormally on March 1st.

At 3:45 pm, Portland Police Bureau Southeast Precinct officers responded to a report of a domestic disturbance at the home; it was described as a dispute between a man and a woman. The man was reportedly holding the woman against her will.

'When officers arrived,' police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz told us at the scene, 'they learned the man had threatened a female in the house with a knife; and she was hiding in an upstairs room of the house.'

Officers worked quickly to bring the woman to safety by setting up a ladder and pulling her through a second-story window.

Two fire engines were standing by. 'The man made statements that he was barricading himself in the home, or was going to burn the home,' explained Schmautz.

Officers attempted to contact the troubled man, but after he made several threats, officers activated the bureau's Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), and shut down S.E. 52nd Avenue, between S.E. Flavel Drive and SE Harney.

From all over the city, members of SERT rolled on-scene. Soon, S.E. 52nd Avenue was filled with patrol cars and off-duty SERT member vehicles.

Officers 'suited up' as a temporary command center was established, dressing in Kevlar vests and camouflage jackets. They then checked their weapons, and got ready for deployment.

Using the restraint typical of local SERT operations that we've seen, they didn't rush in shooting. Instead, the heavily-armed team quickly removed neighbors from surrounding homes, and sealed off the area. Then, they took positions surrounding the house. Trained SERT negotiators established communication, and tried to talk the man into surrendering.

At the Mobile Command Center - a huge RV-looking vehicle - Southeast Precinct Commander Derek Foxworth and his command staff listened to the negotiators and the SERT team leaders.

'If the negotiators believe that talking is fruitful, they'll continue to talk as long as it is reasonable,' Schmautz told us. 'But when the suspect starts becoming irrational, or starts making statements leading them to believe he will cause harm to himself or to the community by his actions, the commander will direct SERT to deploy gas and enter.'

As night fell on this particular rainy evening, the negotiators talked with the man, who could be seen pacing in the house for more than an hour. But, talking didn't lead him to come out; so at 6:16 pm, the sound of shells being fired could be heard - it was the SERT team, shooting tear gas into the house.

A few minutes later, 'Pop, pop, pop' - more shells were lobbed into the residence. 'They'll use enough tear gas or other less-lethal means to gain compliance, as necessary,' Schmautz commented.

Still, the troubled man didn't exit. For 40 minutes, more and more tear gas flooded the residence. The man finally broke a window, trying to escape the gas.

Just before 7 pm, the man - later identified as 50-year-old Gaylon Amen - gave up and came out.

'Amen apparently sustained some non-life threatening injuries when he broke out a window to escape the gas,' Schmautz told us. 'He was transported for medical attention, and will be charged with one count of Menacing, and one count of Assault in the Fourth Degree.'

Schmautz added that police have little information on Amen, other than that 'we've had some prior criminal contact with him. For whatever reason, he was having a severe episode. It could be a medication or a mental health issue.' He added that the Portland Police Domestic Violence Unit will work with the rescued woman to assure her future safety.

We learned that many of the police officers called up for this March 1st SERT mission had been off duty. When the subject was safely in custody, they stripped off their gear, got in their vehicles, and went back home.

'A good mission,' a SERT officer commented to us, in passing. 'Everyone's going home safely, and perhaps this individual will get the help he needs.'