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Siskiyou County deputy receives commendation for talking down distressed veteran

Deputy Rob Stewart helped de-escalate a harrowing armed standoff on I-5 last week.

Posted: Jul 2, 2019 11:25 AM
Updated: Jul 2, 2019 11:38 AM

YREKA, Calif. — A Siskiyou County deputy and combat veteran has received a commendation for his role in safely de-escalating a tense armed standoff with a distressed military veteran on I-5 last week, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office (SCSO).

The encounter began with a high-speed chase on I-5 north of Yreka last Friday. An officer with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was in pursuit of a driver believed to be a military veteran "experiencing a possible mental health crisis." Eventually the driver pulled a U-turn near Hornbrook and began driving the wrong way on I-5 northbound, ramming the CHP officer's vehicle and starting a fire.

"The CHP unit erupted into flames but the flames were extinguished by an off-duty fire fighter and citizen," the Sheriff's Office said.

The distressed veteran, later identified as 28-year-old Jesse Devino of Carlsbad, seemed unable or unwilling to exit his vehicle. He was seen brandishing "and thrashing" a large sword inside the car, ignoring orders to get out. SCSO said that he seemed to be in a mentally distressed emotional state.

Aware of reports that the man was a military veteran and may be suffering from post-traumatic stress, Deputy Stewart arrived on the scene and decided to intervene.

"Deputy Stewart, a combat veteran and former paratrooper with the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division, was wearing a military pin on his uniform and approached the vehicle and engaged the veteran in a verbal interchange," the Sheriff's Office said.

Stewart showed the man his pin and shared that he was also a military veteran. Eventually Stewart was able to develop a dialogue with the distressed veteran, and got him to surrender voluntarily.

Devino had a dog in his car, and the animal was given into the custody of Siskiyou County Animal Control while the veteran was booked for several felony charges.

"On July 1, 2019, Deputy Stewart assisted the man’s father after he traveled to Yreka from out-of-state," the Sheriff's Office said. "The man advised Deputy Stewart his son was a Marine veteran and was struggling with health issues associated with his prior combat duties in the military."

SCSO said that Devino's father retrieved the man's dog as well.

On that same day, July 1, Deputy Stewart received the Sheriff’s Commendation Certificate with a ribbon bar for his "decisive and heroic actions" resolving the standon Friday.

“Deputy Stewart’s actions were heroic and commendable because he resolved an armed stand-off peacefully. He used his training, initiative, status as a veteran, and his ingenuity to establish rapport and successfully de-escalate a potentially dangerous confrontation with a veteran suffering from a probable mental health crisis," said Sheriff Jon Lopey.

Sheriff Lopey said that the Yreka CHP Area Commander also sent a message commending Deputy Stewart's performance. The Sheriff underlined that for veterans experiencing any form of emotional distress, there are resources available:

  • A toll free number (1-800-273-TALK {8255}) is a 24-hour help line for those in need (veteran and non-veterans).
  • Veterans may contact the Veterans’ Crisis Line at 1-866-986-1891 24-hours a day for assistance and support.
  • Another organization that helps veterans, especially those experiencing any type of Post-Traumatic Stress (commonly referred to as PTSD) is Centerstone Military Services (CMS), which provides no-cost or low-cost counseling to veterans. They can be reached at 1-866-781-8010.

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