Deputies de-escalate tense Oakland airport situation with temperature, Tasers

Terminal 1 at the Oakland International Airport was closed for nearly four hours Tuesday morning after a suicidal man with a knife threatened to harm himself.

But deputies were able to de-escalate the situation by altering the temperature inside the airport and deploying Tasers - not guns - yielding a positive and non-deadly ending to a tense morning. 

He was taken away in an ambulance just before 10 a.m., capping a tense encounter that began about 5:45 a.m.

Sheriff spokeswoman Tya Modeste said that deputies were able to distract the man by changing the temperature in the airport.

They turned off the air conditioning and the man got hot. He ended up shedding some of his clothing and got distracted by being uncomfortable, she said.

At that point, deputies deployed their Tasers and they went in to take his knife. 

One sergeant was able to wrest the knife free by wrestling him. The man, who was not identified, suffered a very slight injury to his neck, Modeste said. 

When he was taken by ambulance, he was sitting up and talking. 

Modeste said that no passengers or airport staff suffered any injuries. 

The safe ending to the saga capped a situation where early in the morning the African American man in his 30s had passed a note to a TSA employee that said "Help me."

He then pulled out a large knife and held it to his throat, she said. 

He appeared to be in a severe mental health crisis, she said, and she described him as "highly agitated."

Terminal 1 was evacuated beyond the checkpoint but Terminal 2 ran as usual. 

Cat Brooks, founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project and a big advocate of letting mental health counselors deal with situations like these, credited the sheriff's deputies for doing a good job. She added that she hoped no criminal charges would be filed against the man. She hoped he would only receive psychiatric care.

"He's not dead," Brooks said. "We're glad about that. Sheriffs, you know, their track record isn't so great and we're at a point in the conversation, particularly here in Oakland, where a lot of this dialogue was born, where we should already be at a point where they're calling in mental health first."

On social media, many credited the law enforcement officers for using non-lethal methods to end a situation safely.

"The way it’s done! Good job officers!" Francine Nickerson wrote on Facebook. 

Mel Bell especially liked the creative thinking that went into calming down the situation. 

She wrote: "They made him hot and he got uncomfortable!  Let’s please commend these officers for thinking outside of the box on this one! That’s the kind of effort we should see! He needed help and he got it instead of death."

KTVU staff Tom Vacar, Jake Wiederrich, Keith Crook, Jorge Bustos and Daniel Radovich contributed to this report.