Police talk Carlisle woman out of fiery suicide


Above: Photo from the scene posted on Facebook by Schoharie Co. Fire Wire & News. 

A 47-year-old woman threatening suicide, and splashing herself and her home with gallons of gasoline, triggered a massive police response to her small single-family home on Route 20 in Carlisle on Tuesday. 

Police became involved around 10:20 a.m., when a concerned family member called 911 to ask police to check on the woman, said Sergeant Mark McTague of the New York State Police in Cobleskill, who responded to the scene. 

When police arrived, McTague said, the woman initially refused to answer the door. Eventually, he said, they were able to speak to the woman through a basement window. 

When the responders realized the woman had doused herself and the house with gasoline, the police response escalated, and the westbound lane of Route 20 was closed to traffic. On the scene were roughly 100 officers from the New York State Police, Schoharie County Sheriff's Office, local fire departments and EMS first responders, including a state police special-operations team with an armored Bearcat vehicle and crisis communicators trained in negotiation. 

Because of the overpowering fumes from the gasoline and the risk of explosion, police who were communicating with the woman eventually had to back off from the house, McTague said. At that point, members of a state police Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and crisis communicators approached the house, speaking to the woman with a loudspeaker from the relative safety of the armored car.

"There's always a safety concern to the personnel approaching," McTague said. "The Bearcat was able to get the negotiators and SORT team up there, and act as a shield if there was an explosion." 

Negotiators convinced the gasoline-soaked woman to walk out of the house of her own accord around 2:20 p.m. First responders treated her at the scene and took her by ambulance to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady for observation. 

"She's very lucky," McTague said. "I think she was realizing that if she didn't come out, eventually they would come in."

No one in the rural neighborhood was evacuated during the incident, McTague said. 

"The house is set off a pretty good distance from the road, and the houses are pretty spread out," he said. "Evacuating was not a concern."

The woman, whose name is being withheld by police to protect her privacy, was not charged with anything, McTague said.

A Daily Gazette reporter spoke with Schoharie County sheriff Tony Desmond on Tuesday, who was also on the scene. Desmond told the paper he was glad the incident was resolved peacefully:

“Sometimes if you spend a little time, things like this can be resolved,” he said. “Sometimes it goes wrong. I’ve seen it happen both ways. We’re all happy it worked out the way it did.”

The Carlisle incident follows closely on the heels of an eerily similar one elsewhere in the Watershed Post's coverage area: A woman threatening suicide with a handgun drew a massive police presence to her home on Route 212 in Woodstock on Monday. No one was harmed in either incident.