Situation with distressed man on east lawn of California state Capitol ends peacefully

A four-hour situation with a distressed man armed with a knife ended peacefully Thursday afternoon on the east lawn of the state Capitol.

The man dressed in a brown suit and jeans, described as suicidal, was escorted to a Capitol Protection vehicle at 3:45 p.m. and taken to a mental health center for evaluation.

The California Highway Patrol, which handled the crisis situation, said the man “surrendered peaceably” and was restrained in handcuffs but not taken into custody. CHP spokesman Officer Juan Nava Jr. said the unidentified man decided to seek mental health treatment after surrendering his knife.

Another man who sat with him on a park bench not far from the Capitol’s offices also was not identified.

Dispatchers received a call at about 11:39 a.m. reporting that a person wearing a suit wanted to hurt himself and was possibly armed, according to CHP Capitol Protection Services spokesman Sgt. Nick Matulonis.

The original call-taker did not report seeing a knife firsthand, but mentioned the man “could be armed with a knife,” Matulonis said. Officers are “treating it like he does have a knife,” Matulonis said.

“So far we have not seen a knife on him, but the person that’s speaking with him — that member of the crisis negotiation team — they may or may not have seen a knife,” Matulonis said. “We don’t have any contact with him. We’d rather him continue talking to the subject vs. giving us updates. ... At this time, we are treating it like he does have a knife, though.”

At least two crisis negotiators talked with the man in the suit as the other unidentified man, wearing a white button-down shirt, also talked to him.

“Our goal is to resolve this in the safest way possible,” Matulonis said.

A witness in the Capitol who was not authorized to speak on the situation said a man in a brown jacket appeared to be standing with a knife. Another person in a white dress shirt was sitting on a bench.

As of 1:40 p.m., two men were sitting on a bench surrounded by about a dozen CHP officers, but guns were not drawn. One of the men is a “suicidal subject,” according to CHP Capt. Doug Lyons. The man wants to talk to the media and end his life, he said. Negotiators are talking to him now, Lyons said.

Capt. Sven Miller, a spokesman at CHP’s headquarters, called the incident a “dynamic situation” but deferred further comment to CHP personnel at the Capitol.

The witness said the CHP did not issue an evacuation or stand-in-place order, which are common protocols for members of the Legislature in emergency situations.

The Capitol is Sacramento’s most visited tourist attraction with almost 2 million visiting the building and its grounds each year. More than 1,000 permitted events are held on the Capitol grounds each year, according to the CHP.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to talk with a counselor from the Crisis Text Line.

Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.
Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.