ITHACA, N.Y. — Two Ithaca police officers were punched, kicked and had their lives threatened when they responded to a mental health call Friday that turned dangerous.

According to IPD, the officers were dispatched after a mental health facility asked for assistance in “serving a mental health order mandating that the subject be transported to a local hospital.” The officers found the man they were looking for in the lobby of a business on the 100 block of East Seneca Street in downtown Ithaca. When officers tried speaking to the man, however, police say he turned “disruptive and hostile” toward the officers.

In a news release, IPD said:

The subject repeatedly threatened to kill the police officers and continuously begged the police officers to kill him. The officers attempted to secure the subject in handcuffs, to which he punched one officer in the face and attacked another officer causing them to tumble to the ground. While on the ground officers repeatedly instructed the subject to place his hands behind his back so he could be secured in custody. The subject did not effectively respond to multiple taser deployments and instead continued to punch and kick and scream at the officers to kill him. While attacking the officers, the subject grabbed ahold of the butt of one of the officer’s handguns while it was in its holster and told the officers that they  were either going to have to kill him or he was going to kill them. Officers were able to secure the subject in handcuffs after several minutes of struggling with the subject.

A Bangs Ambulance arrived at the scene and transported the man to a hospital. Officer Jamie Williamson said the man is not in police custody and the department cannot comment about his current status.

Police said they are conferring with the District Attorney’s Office to determine “appropriate charges” against the man, whose name is not being released because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Chief Pete Tyler commended the officers’ actions and professional, saying that training to protect themselves and civilians was essential to having the incident end as it did.

“We never know when a simple everyday encounter with someone can turn into a life or death situation…In this extremely dangerous incident the dynamics quickly changed from a casual encounter to deciding whether to use deadly physical force after the offender repeatedly tried to grab the officer’s gun. Understanding the conditions as they were, the officers handled themselves professionally and were able to gain control, preventing a potentially tragic outcome,” Tyler said. “I’m very proud of their actions and I hope this incident promotes healthy discussions on how mental health issues impact law enforcement in our community.”

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.