Crisis averted as Hayward police detain man armed with spear

It started with a call from a Hayward park ranger who said he was confronted by a homeless man angry about his camp being moved.

"He had been threatened by a knife," said Hayward police Sgt. Ruben Pola.

But it wasn't any ordinary knife.

"He produced kind of a rudimentary spear, which was a piece of wood with a knife taped to the end of it," Pola said.

The park ranger didn't press the issue.

"The park ranger was in fear of getting stabbed, and he kind of backed away and he ended up calling the police department for assistance," Pola said.

Officer Jose Najera, a trained crisis negotiator, and Pola were among the officers who responded.

"When we first arrived on scene, he was obviously upset," Najera said. "I tried to make contact with him, talk to him, tried to create dialogue, but he wasn't having it."

Najera continued to reach out to the man.

"I went the route of just asking him if he was OK," Najera said. "And at that point he signaled, he gave me a thumbs up, soI figured he's OK, we have a little bit of time."

Time - and distance - are key concepts in policing to slow things down, to take a moment to assess. But the officers still had weapons, from guns to less-lethal tools, at the ready.

"So we were trying to cover all the bases at that point," Najera said

Hayward police body-cam video shows what happened next.

"Hands nice and tall. Hands nice and tall. Come, come," officers told the 45-year-old man.

The man cooperated and was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

He never brandished the spear at officers. But police say the potential was there.

"He was in a seated position. And the knife was located right next to where he was seated," Najera said.

Pola said, "We were going to de-escalate this if at all possible. That was the number one goal, is to resolve this thing."

The sergeant recognized that the man needed mental-health treatment.

"My goal was that this individual gets his treatment, the (park) ranger is safe, we're safe and the situation is a non-event," Pola said.

Najera agreed, saying, "It's a victory all around. I mean when we go into these situations, we don't know, we don't know  what we're getting ourselves into."

Hayward police were involved in three shootings during a 12-day period earlier this summer. One of them was deadly. Officers say they are relieved that this incident was resolved peacefully.