27 year old Bellingham resident Manuel Gonzalez, born in May of 1988, was taken into custody for Assault in the 1st degree, a class A felony, after pulling a knife on one of our officers. Officer Ortega is assigned to our Traffic Division and was operating a fully marked police motorcycle and was in uniform when this incident occurred.
At about 9:50 a.m. our officers were dispatched to a report of a theft that had just occurred at Grocery Outlet at 1600 Ellis Street. Our police dispatcher provided a description of the man that had left the store without paying for grocery items (later identified as Gonzalez). A loss prevention employee added that Gonzalez had not been cooperative.
Officer Ortega spotted Gonzalez leaning against a business on York Street just east of Railroad Avenue, about two blocks from Grocery Outlet. He drove his motorcycle up onto the sidewalk and parked near Gonzalez and attempted to engage in conversation with him about the theft. Gonzalez would not speak with Ortega and started posturing as the officer approached on foot. It appeared to Ortega that Gonzalez was preparing to either fight or flee on foot so he ordered the man to face away and place his hands behind his back. Ortega closed the distance to gain control of Gonzalez' hands. With a sudden action Gonzalez moved his hands to the buckle area of his waist line. Ortega could see a knife in the man's waistband and quickly stepped away, drawing his firearm as he created space between himself and Gonzalez.
Gonzalez spun toward Ortega in a fighting stance with the knife in his right hand. Ortega said that it appeared as if Gonzalez quickly realized that Ortega's firearm was pointed at him and he immediately tossed the knife into the street. Ortega maintained verbal control of Gonzalez and alerted other officers by radio of his situation. A second officer quickly arrived to assist in taking Gonzalez into custody. Our officers and the arrestee were not harmed during this dangerous confrontation.
This incident highlights just how dangerous and unpredictable people can be. The theft was minor in nature but that did not make a difference to Gonzalez and his choice to arm himself against our officer. It equally highlights the level of skill and training that was applied by Ortega to diffuse this situation without harm to himself or Gonzalez.