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Video In Suicide-By-Cop Attempt Shows Deputies’ Control of Hairtrigger Confrontation

| September 18, 2015

statcy culotta suicide by cop

Stacy Culotta just before Sgt. Michael van Buren incapacitated her with a Taser Monday.

Monday afternoon Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies were involved in an alleged suicide-by-cop situation in Palm Coast’s P Section when a cryptic 911 call from 8 Pine Brook Drive triggered a response. There they found Stacy Culotta, 36, standing near her pool in her screened-in back porch, with a gun in her hands. It turned out to be a BB gun. But in the moment cops didn’t know that, and a tense, seven-minute stand-off ensued as Culotta refused to drop her gun and showed no other sign of compliance, or willingness to resolve the situation. She could at any point have been shot by any one of the three deputies.


She wasn’t, even after pointing the gun at one of the deputies. At that point, Sgt. van Buren, a 28-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, incapacitated her with a Taser shot from a dozen feet away, and ended the situation.

On request, the sheriff’s office released the body camera video van Buren wore during the encounter. Half the 16-minute footage of the encounter is included below, though FlaglerLive requested the full video. “I ended the video after she was arrested and secured. Nothing other than time and a few discussions were recorded from that point forward,” a sheriff’s spokesman said, noting that the shorter version “expedited” the video release.

The video is striking for the controlled and measured manner in which three deputies approached and negotiated with Culotta, even though she appeared uninterested in negotiations, and eventually were able to safely incapacitate her. It is at least the third such incident in the last two and a half years where Flagler deputies have defused situations involving an individual with a weapon looking possibly to harm self or others.

The video shows two other cops approaching the house with him, from the patio-pool area, when two poodle-like dogs immediately begins yelping incessantly. At first James Crosby and Fiona Ebrill, the two other deputies are, along the screened-in back porch, evaluating the situation without particular alarm: Culotta hasn’t shown her weapon yet.

That changes very suddenly (1 minute 25 seconds into the video) when they realize she is holding what appears to be a gun. The two deputies immediately take out their guns and van Buren radios in as he runs toward Ebrill and Crosby, “Bravo 210 Flagler weapon, weapon shown, weapon shown.” Ebrill has inched back at an angle from the side of the porch, Crosby is in a ground depression by the side of the house. The deputies are all loudly ordering Culotta to drop the gun.

Culotta is standing ion her pool area, facing Crosby head-on from behind the screen, about 10 or 12 feet separating them. She is immobile, as if staring him down, perhaps daring him, both her arms at her side, but one of them holding the weapon. She takes a step or two, the cops keep urging her to put the gun down. They have no reason yet to think it’s anything less than a firearm.

Just after the second minute, van Buren suggests it may be a pellet gun, but no one is sure. Crosby takes a higher position behind a tree, explains to Culotta that they just want to talk. “We’re here because somebody called 911,” van Buren says. “We just need to make sure everybody is OK, all right? So drop it.”

Culotta does not comply. The dog keeps yapping. “We’re talking to her at the back pool, she’s still refusing to drop the weapon,” van Buren tells dispatch.

Four minutes in, Culotta puts the dog in the house. It’s quieter. “All right, we can talk now,” Culotta says. But she still walks back to the center of the pool area, her hands clasped on the weapon against her stomach.

Van Buren is remarkably calm: “All right,” he says. “Just put the gun down, OK? So we can relax, put our gun down so we can sit and talk.” Culotta claims there’s nothing to talk about, that she didn’t call 911, that maybe her son had called because he was there a little while ago. When van Buren asks her why she’s carrying a gun, she says she always does so. The dispatcher asks how many people are in the house. “Unknown,” van Buren replies as he resumes pleading with the woman to put the gun down, now in a conciliatory tone. But Culotta says she’s not putting her gun down with weapons aimed at her.

“I’m not aiming at you,” van Buren says. “I’m at a low ready. OK? You drop yours, I’ll put mine away, I’ll come in, we’ll talk.” The two converse. She tells him there’s no one in the house. He tells her deputies can’t leave until they are certain there’s no one in the house. When he tells her she’s going to have to put the gun down, she tells him, “I don’t have to do shit. What are you going to do about it, shoot me?”

“That’s not what I want to do, OK?” van Buren says. “Obviously something is going on for somebody to call us.” She tells him she was just having a drink. She’s at her house. He tells her the only threat in play is her gun: all the deputies need to do, he tells her, is be assured the situation is under control, that there’s no one in the house injured or hurt, “and everybody can go along, on their way.”

At that point, seven minutes into the confrontation, the woman calmly walks out of the screened-in porch area. She appears to be willing to comply with van Buren’s request. But she stands there, just outside the door. “Please, put the gun down,” van Buren says again, calmly, pleading again and again as she says something then goes quiet, still clutching at the weapon with both hands, at her midsection, and looking tense.

Thirty five seconds pass during that exchange when she suddenly lifts the weapon with both hands, poting it at one of the deputies and says, “you want to point this shit?”

Not a second passes between the time she aims and van Buren fires his Taser, striking her on the left arm and incapacitating her as she goes down in a gallop of “ow”s, and van Buren quickly approaches her and disarms her.

Culotta was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest without violence. She remains at the Flagler County jail on $5,500 bond.

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34 Responses for “Video In Suicide-By-Cop Attempt Shows Deputies’ Control of Hairtrigger Confrontation”

  1. rst says:

    Textbook example of everything done right. Great job Sgt. Van Buren!

  2. Dennis says:

    This Sgt is a hero. What a wonderful job great job Sgt. Van Buren……….

  3. SDB says:

    Great skill in preventing what could have had a very different outcome.

  4. white male says:

    Would this have had the same outcome if she was a black male?

    • Anonymous says:

      “Whitemale” that is the dumbest comment ever. Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to make a split second decision whether or not to take someone’s life, with the risk of losing your’s as well, if you chose wrong?” I have. More than once. And at no time during that complicated decision making process, that happens in a fraction of a second, does someone’s skin tone or sex come into play. Do you really believe anyone of those deputies looked at her and said “We’d be justified in killing her, but……..she’s a white woman, so let’s not.” All those deputies made a clutch decision and saved a life at risk of losing theirs. And you choose this opportunity to light the powder keg of bigotry. Shame on you. And I hope you never get put in a situation where you have to chose whether or not to take someone’s life, because you clearly associate people’s skin tone and sex with the value of their life. I’m glad if I call 9-1-1 those deputies come and not you.

      • Good Question? says:

        Jon Dopp FCSO benevolent reps own words/comment about a kid being gunned down before a visual of a BB gun is even verified by the offending cop. For one, when the cop got there it was in the kids pants and he reached for it and was gunned down.

        ” Jon Dopp says:
        December 12, 2014 at 9:21 pm
        Tamir Rice was holding an air soft gun that looked frightenly real. To discern the fake from the real in a matter of seconds is nearly impossible. No one should be asked to bet their life that the gun being held is fake. My reasoning stands, the officers in that case BELIEVED they were justified in using deadly force. While tragic, this one is not on the cops. They too have to live with a decision they were forced to make.”

      • white male says:

        Not matter what the race of the Cop. Cops seem to fear darker skin and out of that fear react differently. A chubby goofy white chick doesn’t scare them the same as a dark skinned upset man.

      • Anonymous says:

        sorry but if she was black she would be dead.. your wrong ^^^ the cops did a great job BTW..

    • LD Ablo says:

      No,the sergeant would have been charged with a hate crime.

    • Good Question? says:

      I’m with white male on this one. Had She or He been black immediate (Jon Dopp response “We Won’t be your victims” remember that article?” Bang, Bang end of story. Then all you would of heard is how scared the cops were, and they were left with no choice, and all the person had to do was listen and cooperate, yeah, yeah. Double standard all the way.

    • Good Question? says:

      Go back to Troy Gordon’s shooting death http://flaglerlive.com/48245/troy-gordon-shooting/ read all the comments of how the police were scared and had no choice but to kill him and match it to this life saving moment.

  5. GM2 says:

    Outstanding work by our law enforcement to control a tense situation and hat’s off to Flagler Live for covering it. Unfortunately this kind of incident does not get the media attention it deserves. I guess it takes sensationalism to sell newspapers. Great job Deputy Van Beauren and backup !

  6. G... says:

    Great job Sgt. Van Buren!

  7. w.ryan says:

    Great Job!

  8. Knightwatch says:

    The way it’s supposed to be. Congrats on a job well done.

  9. Footballen says:

    That is a very lucky woman!!!!! I have to tell you I would not have risked my life, she would have been dropped like a sack of potatoes. I commend each and everyone of those deputies because they all literally handed that woman their own lives. The split second it would have taken for her to shoot any one of them in the face could not have been prevented had that gun been real and they had no way to know. That shows amazing willingness on their part. I’m not sure any of their loved ones would agree with the sacrifice they all made for a woman who clearly wanted to die that day.

  10. David B says:

    What’s wrong with the women in Palm Coast lately ? Oh yeah, it’s football season and men are ignoring them.

  11. confidential says:

    Sargent Van Buren and his officer assistant deserve both a medal for valor and professionalism!
    We also need to hear this great actions of our good law enforcement officers while risking their lives.
    Thank you!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    The dazed/detached look on this woman’s face hints at either a substance issue and/or someone who is suffering from a serious episode of PTSD. I wonder if she has been involved in trauma situations in her life for which she badly needs treatment. If so, I hope and pray that she gets it.

  13. Geezer says:

    White complexion = benefit of the doubt.
    Non-white = shoot first, doubt never.

    Just ask Troy Gordon of Palm Coast.
    Well, maybe not – he’s stone-cold DEAD.

    http://flaglerlive.com/48199/machete-killed/

  14. GM2 says:

    It amazes me that when law enforcement officers do such a fantastic job of defusing such a critical situation while risking their lives and minimal resultant injury to the subject, that people second guess them with a lot of second guessing and try to interject a racial issue by “suppose this” or “what would have happened in this case” . Why can’t we all admit that the deputys did an outstanding job in THIS instance and thank them and be proud of them for the way they handled THIS situation instead of going to the past and digging up instances which may (or may not) have been mishandled. I think “Good Question” and “White male” are both idiots and I wonder how you would feel if you every needed the assistance of law enforcement in a situation like this . . .

    • Good Question? says:

      You know nothing about me or what I’ve experienced in life. Public sentiment says it all. Go match the comments to when a white life is saved as opposed to a black or brown. This woman did everything she could do to to get shot and the police did everything they could not to shoot her. You applaud them for job well done because she’s alive. Had she not looked liked you and yours your comments would reflect bias whether the person lived or died. Save the deflection. I wish for one second everything was reversed you’d pack up and move to Idaho. People like you benefit from the old standard that was set so anything outside of what you think is right is wrong. Because your white as much as you may think its not the case you should expect or deserve to be treated any better then anyone else.

  15. Ray Thorne says:

    If anyone has a problem with the outcome because the woman is “white” you might have racist tendencies. Get help. All lives matter.

    • Good Question? says:

      If you were able to look past the white privilege that’s slipping away from you, you would understand of course “All lives matter” . Black Lives Matter wouldn’t have to be echoed to remind people like YOU that Black Lives Matter too! That’s the whole point you will never get it because in the united states everything has to get the ok and acknowledgment from white culture in order to be recognized. Why is there a black history month, because every other month is white history. I don’t know why I would believe you could and would understand, there were family loving, tax paying church going folks just like you in the past. The only problem is they didn’t do a thing to break slavery or end segregation so to you all this is mute. I’m glad she’s alive, I respect everyone of those police. I have a cousin that is NYPD sergeant. I have local friends in this community who are deputies. “Racist tendencies” Mr. Thorne? Where your great grand parents slaves in the US? How many times have you been called nigger? How times have you been harassed or frisked by those hiding behind the law? No one is against the police. Your living in a fantasy if race, gender culture or demographics don’t play into policing whether one lives or dies.

  16. GM2 says:

    To “Good Question” – can you admit that the deputies did a magnificant job in this instance – even if the subject was white? Would you feel any different if the subject had been black? Or would you simply thumb back through past incidents and find another case that may not have been handled as well to support your racist views?
    You are making the assumption that “me and mine” look like the subject and that I feel I deserve better treatment because I am white. How do you know that I am white? You are basing your comments on assumptions. “You know nothing about me or what I have experienced in life” either.

  17. rick says:

    Geezer,

    You do realize that the deputies in the Troy Gordon case also deployed a TASER, when that failed they resorted to self defense by lethal force. Not to mention an African American Sgt. was in the garage with them when they were forced to shoot the subject. .

  18. John Moravecek says:

    Screw the taser! Point a gun at me suicidial or not you get shot instead.

  19. Ray Thorne says:

    At Good Question?:

    You assume much about me. That makes you ignorant.

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