When a man suspected of having a gun reached into his waistband after confronting a Richmond police officer on Friday night, the cop made the split-second decision to use his fist instead of his firearm, police said.
The police officer punched the 21-year-old suspect, distracting him long enough to take him into custody in an incident that began with a foot chase in the 1400 block of Bissell Avenue.
Police responded to the high-crime area about 10:20 p.m. after receiving a call about a man with a gun, police Sgt. Nicole Abektov said.
When police arrived they located a 21-year-old man who matched the description of the suspect. The 21-year-old fled on foot when he saw police, Abetkov said.
Following a short chase, the suspect suddenly stopped and turned to face the officer, but refused to follow the cop’s commands. While the officer was shouting commands the suspect reached into the waistband of his pants, Abetkov said.
“The officer then punches the suspect in the face, which distracted the suspect, and was then able to take him into custody,” Abetkov said.
Ultimately, the 21-year-old suspect was not armed and was not the suspect officers had been looking for. The suspect said he fled because he had a warrant for his arrest. He said he was reached into his pants in order to hide or discard drugs and paraphernalia.
He was arrested for the warrant and possession of narcotics and paraphernalia, Abektov said.
Officers are trained to use their free hand to pull in or fend off a suspect, particularly during close proximity encounters, the police spokesperson said.
“In this incident the officer was right on him, so he made a split second decision to punch him in face,” Abetkov said.
Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus lauded the officer on social media Sunday for showing restraint. The chief is one of two law enforcement professionals selected to identify ways police in St. Louis County can prevent use of deadly force. The chief was selected in part because of RPD’s innovative strategies that have led to a low rate of fatal officer-involved incidents (just one recorded in last seven years.).