On July 20, after less drastic means were unsuccessful, Noblesville police officers shot and wounded an apparent suicidal man near Riverview Hospital, at 395 Westfield Rd. At press time, the suspect, Taylor Bell, 27, remained in critical condition in Methodist Hospital where he was taken after the shooting.
According to Sheriff Deputy Bryant Orem, the Hamilton County Communications Center received a call at 9:36 p.m. from Bell who was claiming he had a gun and was going to set himself up to be killed by the police by pointing the gun at officers. At 9:56 p.m., officers located Bell, and an NPD negotiator started communications with him.
“During the negotiations, Mr. Bell produced a pistol from his waistline and was waving it at the ground,” Orem said. “Noblesville Police Dept. officers initially deployed less than lethal bean bag rounds in an attempt to control Mr. Bell.”
Around 10:33 p.m., Bell attempted to flee and two officers deployed tasers which were ineffective. At that time, Bell raised his weapon and pointed it in the direction of three nearby Noblesville officers.
“The three officers each fired one round from their patrol rifles striking Mr. Bell twice. Officers administered first aid to Mr. Bell until medics arrived on the scene,” Orem said.
As is often the practice with police action shootings, Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt requested a different agency investigate the incident and turned control over to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. While it is becoming a national phenomenon, Jowitt said this was the first incident of a person attempting “suicide by police” in recent memory.
“Our officers get a pretty significant amount of training on various aspects of emotionally disturbed people,” Jowitt said, adding that the disappearance of state mental health facilities means law enforcement is dealing with more mental and emotionally disturbed people. “Suicidal and attempting suicide calls are not as infrequent. We’ve had far more situations with mentally or emotionally disrupted people than we used to.”
Jowitt could not comment on the current investigation but said NPD officers are trained to deal with unsettled suspects.
“We always try to resolve any situation without having to resort to force. When we do, we use the minimal amount of force. All officers have multiple options others than firearms,” he said.
With any horrific event officers are involved with, Jowitt said the department’s critical incident team immediately comes out and talks to officers. With police action shootings, the critical incident team is debriefed and officers are required to visit with a psychologist. He added that officer’s spouses also are provided with a counselor if needed.
Bell’s weapon recovered at the scene was a Beretta air soft gun. Jowitt said these look-alike weapons are “virtually not distinguishable” as fakes from a distance.
“You’re not able to tell they are not real. It looks like a compact Beretta,” he said. “There’s nothing about that weapon you couldn’t tell without a close exam what it was.”
Jowitt said the popularity of air soft and pellet guns are the cause for more phone calls from concerned residents about weapons being out in the public.
“It happens more than a little bit,” he said. “Officers have to assume it is a firearm until proven otherwise.”