Police say what started as a welfare check for a man who was allegedly waving a machete around near Main Street and the intersection of East Mendenhall and Rouse Avenue turned into a three-hour long standoff with Hawthorne Elementary School temporarily going on lockdown.
“We do not take chances with the safety of our kids,” says Captain Dana McNeil, who was on-scene throughout the situation.
It started as a call around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon: a man carrying a large knife in a pickup truck, waving it around near Main Street.
McNeil says the calls began to multiply.
“We received multiple calls,” McNeil says. “I’ve been told about four different, separate calls in the area of 11th and Main of an individual in a pickup truck that was waving a machete for an unknown reason.”
Police, ranging from Bozeman City Police to Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies, the Bozeman Fire Department, and MSU campus police, quickly caught up with the man, stopping his truck between Bozeman City Hall and Hawthorne Elementary.
“When they attempted to stop the vehicle, the subject brandished the machete, placed it at his own neck in a manner that was threatening his own life,” McNeil says.
During the tense situation, police worked alongside negotiators and mental health professionals, talking with the man, while also setting plans in motion to protect students — a full lockdown.
“That decision was made just out of an abundance of caution,” McNeil says. “There was no immediate threat to any of the children, but we had to consider their immediate safety and the possibility of losing containment of it.”
“Hawthorne is very organized,” says Marilyn King, deputy superintendent of instruction for the Bozeman School District. “We had a direct route to the Bozeman Public Library. That went very, very smoothly. The kids have been terrific. The families have been wonderful.”
King says the school practiced for something like this.
“We hope we never have to do it but if we have to do it, we want to do it well and, today, it went really, really well,” King says.
Three hours of negotiations passed with the intersection of Rouse Avenue and East Mendenhall closed for the duration.
In the end, the situation ended with no one hurt.
The man was taken into protective custody, without charges placed against him as of Wednesday night.
McNeil says all of it was out of an abundance of caution.
“We’re in the job of protecting the public,” he says. “When someone is waving a machete in public, that’s the sort of thing that we are going to get involved in. When they start threatening themselves, we want to make sure that we do everything that we can, for the public’s protection like we did here for the school and also for this individual’s protection.”
Police took the man to Bozeman Health for a mental evaluation.