A group of Court Officers working at headquarters were recognized for being the first line of defence in thwarting a potentially deadly threat.
Standing at the screening station at the front door of police headquarters on July 12, Court Officer Cindy Peterson was a bit surprised when a visitor put his knapsack on the ground instead of the desk set up for personal belongings to be checked before they are brought into the building.
Just three weeks earlier, on June 26, the Service enhanced security protocols that included setting up Court Officers at the front and rear entrance doors. They are required to screen people for police identification, search visitors' bags and wand them for weapons and objects that could compromise safety.
“I got the impression this guy was surprised to see us there,” said Peterson. “I believe he expected he could just walk right in.”
As he raised up from the ground, the visitor allegedly took out a large knife and pointed it at Peterson’s stomach.
“It was about an inch or two away and had I not pulled back, it would have pierced me,” she said. “He said he was here to kill all police officers, including me.”
The incident occurred around 1 p.m., the peak period for citizens coming to the customer service counter at headquarters to pick up background checks during their lunch hour.
Fahad Zamir was checking another visitor when he heard the threatening remarks.
“When I looked up, he was holding a knife about eight-to-10-inches long and it was pointed at my partner,” he recalled. “I intervened and asked him to drop it. I also asked him if he was serious about what he was doing and his reply was, ‘Yeah, I am serious.’ He then raised the knife from his waist to his shoulder and began to advance towards me.”
Grasping the scope of the imminent danger, Peterson pushed the table used for visitors to place their belongings in front of the attacker to prevent him from advancing further. She also yelled for visitors in the area to go into the nearby tuck shop and lock themselves in and those trying to come through the front door to retreat outside.”
Seated at the rear of the building, Court Officer Marwan Abdalle was alerted to the commotion by another visitor in the building.
“She signalled for me to come in her direction and she looked worried,” he said. “As I got closer to her, I could hear the screaming and yelling at the front. She told me there was someone with a knife and she asked if I could help.”
Rhea Alvarez, the other officer at the front desk, ran to the duty desk and alerted armed officers to the unfolding situation.
Constables Jesse Oldfield, Michael Walker and Carmen Wong responded with weapons drawn and, using their police tactics and training, ordered the man to drop the knife.
“He lowered it to his waist, turned to the table and placed the knife down,” Peterson said. “He then turned around and started to walk towards the nearby front door to exit the building. The officers ordered him to stop and get down to the ground and he complied.”
Abdalla, Alvarez and Zamir helped the officers make the arrest.
“I secured one of his arms and patted him down to ensure he had no more weapons,” said Zamir. “In my three years as a Court Officer, this was the first time I had encountered something like this with someone bringing a weapon and brandishing it.”
The 40-year-old man was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, weapons dangerous, two counts of assaulting a peace officer while threatening to use a weapon, two counts of uttering death threats and obstructing a police officer.
The three Court Officers, along with the responding police officers, were honoured with a Teamwork Commendation.
Acting Manager Eaton Hyde is proud of the Court Officers.
“What they did exemplifies the excellent work our people do, sometimes under trying and dangerous circumstances,” he said. “It shows that we can do that same kind of work at headquarters using the training we received.”
Acting Superintendent Brian Preston, Court Services unit commander, agreed.
“Our management team is very proud of our members for the professionalism and dedication they bring to the workplace every day and here at headquarters,” he said.
A total of 39 commendations, 24 Community Service awards, three Letters of Recommendation and a Chief of Police Excellence honour were presented at the awards ceremony on November 29.
Acting Chief James Ramer said the award recipients have greatly contributed to the safety and security of the city.
“As leaders in our profession, we have a responsibility and obligation to acknowledge those who perform courageously and whose success we ultimately benefit from collectively, regardless if they are a police officer or private citizen,” he said.