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Awards an honor, but task part of officers' job

7/21/2013

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Recognition by their peers across Kansas and by their chief is an honor, members of the Hays Police Department's Special Situations and Response Team said.

"It makes you feel good inside," Hays patrolman Christopher J. Hancock said in an interview prior to Friday's recognition ceremony. "Mostly, you feel good about being part of the team."

"The other side of this is we were just doing our job," said Brandon M. Hauptman.

Hauptman, Hancock and team leader Aaron F. Larson were presented bronze awards for exemplary service Friday in Newton by the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police.

Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler and SSRT team commander Tim Greenway -- who came up with the plan leading to the three team members' recognition -- were on hand to watch and revel in the moment.

"These guys did a terrific job," Greenway said.

Hauptman, Hancock and Larson have been a bit more reluctant, shifting credit to the entire 12-member team. Larson had a prior commitment and wasn't able to take part in the interview.

The awards stem from a Dec. 19 standoff in the 400 block of West Fourth that persisted for nearly four hours even as temperatures fell and a blizzard conditions settled in on the area.

SSRT members were called out when a 53-year-old man on the second floor of an apartment held authorities at bay after he threatened a relative with a rifle.

As police attempted to negotiate with the man, who frequently went out on a balcony to smoke, Greenway came up with a plan.

But it required plenty of effort and forced the three men to put full faith in other members of the team.

In short, they were put into position to rush blindly into a situation they couldn't see until they were already in the thick of things.

Greenway's plan sent Larson, Hancock and Hauptman up a ladder to another apartment on the second floor.

But entering the warm apartment in full gear -- weighing nearly 100 pounds -- meant the three had to let their goggles clear up.

Then they waited behind a door, unable to see what the man with a gun was doing.

They just knew when a flash-bang device went off, that was their cue to rush out and restrain the man, no easy task under the prevailing weather conditions.

Hauptman, the team's Taser training officer, tried using the device to disable the man.

That didn't work, he said, so the three instantly were in a hand-to-hand situation. Despite the altercation, the man was taken into custody without serious injury to anyone, although Hancock was nearly thrown off the balcony as he and the others tried to subdue the man.