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DELAND, FL – Volusia sheriff’s deputies and DeLand police peacefully resolved an incident with a DeLand man who was considering ending his life Tuesday – instead taking him into custody for evaluation and treatment after more than three hours of talks outside a hospital.
The 55-year-old military veteran and former law enforcement officer named Theodore Melton, 55, of DeLand, was disarmed and taken out of his vehicle around 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot at AdventHealth DeLand, where he’d stopped his truck after leading deputies and police through DeLand after his suicidal statements were reported to 911.
“Nobody’s hurt, and everybody went home safe. That’s the most important thing that came out of this,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood told reporters afterward. Sheriff Chitwood praised the work of two deputies in particular, Deputy Adam Clausen and Sgt. Jeff Wingard, who, along with the sheriff, negotiated face to face at the driver’s side door. Ultimately, Clausen took a handgun out of the man’s hand and Wingard pulled him out of the truck to safety.
“I cannot say enough about Deputy Clausen and Sgt. Wingard,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “For the hours that we were out here, they’re the ones who did the bulk of the negotiations. He wanted to talk to me because I was the sheriff and I was the one that could make decisions, he thought, by giving orders. But those guys did a phenomenal job, and again, everybody’s going home safe.”
The initial 911 call was received around 7:30 a.m. from an out-of-state caller reporting his friend called to say goodbye, claiming he had shot himself in the chest. It was also reported that there may be explosives in his truck. Those claims were later determined to be false. However, there were several guns in the truck.
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Deputies and police located the truck as it traveled through the DeLand area. At one point he ran over a deputy’s stop sticks, and the vehicle ultimately came to a stop outside the AdventHealth emergency room around 8:50 a.m.
Negotiations continued over the course of the next three and a half hours, with Sheriff Chitwood delivering paperwork the man wanted to sign to determine his beneficiaries. While the man had tossed out three guns onto the pavement, there were believed to be at least two more inside the vehicle.
After he was taken into custody around 12:30 p.m., he was brought inside the hospital, where it was confirmed he didn’t have any gunshot injuries. Deputies completed Baker Act paperwork, collected the weapons from the scene and are filing for a judge’s risk protection order to remove weapons from the man’s possession due to the danger he poses to himself or others.
Deputies and DeLand police previously responded to a suicidal person call involving the same subject in 2017. In that Oct. 8, 2017, incident, he did sustain two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the abdomen.
Melton served the DeLand Police Department from 1992-1994 and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office from 1994-1996, again briefly in 1997.