SPOKANE, Wash. - On a day a Spokane man hoped to die, police weren't going to let that happen.
Now, he wants you to hear his amazing story in his own words.
Gordon Kennedy reached out to KXLY. He wanted to thank police for what happened, which was all captured on these police body cameras. But, he didn't know where to start. Before you read about their powerful interaction, we need to take you back to April 24, 2016.
"Sir, I don't want to shoot you, put your gun down!" Officer Seth Killian can be heard saying on body camera footage.
"I called 911 and said there was a man walking down south Riverton with a gun," Gordon explained.
"He's asking us to shoot him, carrying his gun," Ofc. Killian said.
"I started walking and I had a BB gun that was in a holster thing and it looked like a real gun," said Gordon.
Gordon thought, hoped, that afternoon, would be his last.
"Drop the gun!" Officer John Yen says on his body camera footage.
"I have Schizophrenia and I'm Bipolar and for a few days going into this, I was hearing voices saying a lot of negativity."
On that day, in front of an audience on their balconies, Gordon begged the officers to take his life.
"We don't want to shoot you man, we really don't," Ofc. Killian said.
This isn't the first time Gordon has decided to end his life. Far from it.
Gordon says he has attempted suicide more than 100 times in his lifetime.
Since high school, Gordon's depression and, recently, negative voices have plunged him over and over into darkness.
"The police have gotten me to Sacred Heart on four or so occasions where I've overdosed," he said. "I've had my stomach pumped when I was 16 from an overdose, and I've been in a coma from it for four and a half days. I've got talked off the railing of the Monroe Street Bridge."
But this time, he wasn't going to attempt it. He wanted police to do it for him.
"Sir, will you put the gun down please?" an officer is heard saying.
"If I put it down, you won't shoot me!" Gordon replied.
"Gordon, I need you to put that down," Ofc. Yen said on the body camera footage. "Whatever is in your left hand."
Dressed in a suit, with a bible and pictures of loved ones in his pocket, Gordon changed his mind.
"I could hear kids playing, and I looked ahead of me, and about 30, 40 yards ahead of him, was a play area of this apartment building," Gordon recalled, "and I could hear kids that were playing, 3 or 4 of them, and that's when I put the BB gun pistol down."
"We need to detain you, okay.?" Ofc. Yen said. "We just have to make sure that you are safe, and that we are safe."
"Within two minutes of putting the pistol down, I was so glad to be alive," Gordon said. "I was just overjoyed."
In the body camera footage, Gordon is heard apologizing to the officers.
"Oh, it's okay, Gordon," Ofc. Dunkin replied. "We're glad you're okay."
Often, this is where the story would end with Gordon heading to the hospital, and police back in their cars to wait for the next call.
But that's not where this story ends.
"It's not often that we get to see this kind of outcome," said Cpl. Teresa Fuller.
Gordon called KXLY, wanting us to put him in touch with the officers.
Seven months later, he met the guys who saved his life that day, found out they've been thinking about him, too.
"I wondered often what happened to you and how you're doing, so it's really nice to see you're doing good," Ofc. Dave Dunkin said to Gordon.
Together, they relived that fateful day, through the lens of body cameras.
"I'm so grateful to be alive," Gordon said after watching the footage. "It's hard not to cry right now."
For Gordon, it was tough to watch, but therapeutic.
"I've been wanting to tell you guys thank you for having patience and your training and compassion," Gordon said to the officers.
It was a powerful moment for the officers, too.
"I think it was so emotionally difficult for us because of how close we came to shooting you," Ofc. Dunkin said.
"Seeing all those things [on the body camera footage], it's like a flash, seared in my mind," Ofc. Yen said. "I'll always remember those little snippets."
Police officers are often the first responders when people are in mental health crises.
"Our biggest concern when we get there are peoples' safety in the area, our safety, making sure we go home," Ofc. Seth Killian explained.
A Spokane Police Department study recently found officers respond to an average of three suicidal calls every day.
That doesn't even include calls like Gordon's that are reported to 911 as something other than a "suicidal person."
"We deal with [people with mental health issues] at crisis mode," explained Cpl. Teresa Fuller, "and our officers are trained to deal with that, and they deal with it professionally and capably every day."
"No! I don't want to shoot you! We can get you the help you need!" Ofc. Yen said in the body camera footage.
In the body camera footage, the officers appear calm, collected, and in control.
"What can I do to help you besides what you want me to do?" Ofc. Yen said. "Besides that? Is there something else we can do? A different alternative?"
Officer Yen uses his training to do what's needed to bring Gordon out of that crisis state, but inside, "I was so nervous," he admitted. "I didn't know. It was like, is this really happening in front of me? Am I about to see what I've seen in the news happen in front of me? Am I going to be a part of this?"
Instead, the officers and Gordon walked away unscathed. Gordon says it's thanks to the officers' compassion, and maybe a little bit of divine intervention.
"Thank you God that I'm alive and I have a chance for things to turn around," Gordon said, "and for the voices to calm down in my head. Maybe they'll calm down if I get some things right in my life."
Gordon still battles his demons.
I kind of lost my purpose in life a little bit," he said.
While he may feel lost, these officers say his impact is not lost on them.
"You had a purpose that day," Ofc. Yen said. "You changed all of our lives. From that day on, we will remember this forever, and we will tell other people what happened, and we will tell people the success that we had, and how good we felt after and how we all learned from it."
"Life is too valuable to throw it away," Gordon said, "especially when so many different times I've been given a second chance at life."
Gordon is currently in an outpatient program, and plans to get more help for his mental health and addiction struggles. He hopes to soon go back to work, and reunite with his family.
The Police Department invited Gordon to start talking to police officers to share his experiences to offer insight and advice for the officers on how to deal with people in mental health crises.
If you are struggling with addiction, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, here are some resources:
- Preparing for icy winter weather
- Neighbor of suspect shocked by shooting
- SPD officers attempted tasing suspect before resorting to deadly force
- Unvaccinated students forced to stay home due to mumps outbreak
- 2 Bonner County deputies shot near Blanchard
- Baldwin leaving EWU for Cal offensive coordinator position