BOONE COUNTY, INDIANA - The Boone County sheriff who led a multi-agency police standoff Thursday with a Tippecanoe County rape suspect says he wants to ensure the officers on the scene receive the mental health services they need.
Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen described the event as "traumatic."
"I've seen things that I can't unsee," Nielsen said Friday. "This is one of those that I will never be able to unsee."
Nielsen has been sheriff for 36 years and has become passionate about ensuring officers receive access to proper therapy and mental health programs.
With the standoff ending with a suicide, Nielsen said he wants to make sure officers on Thursday's scene are taken care of emotionally.
"They may have went home safe, but we've got to make sure they're safe for the next year and the rest of their career," Nielsen said.
The man accused of kidnapping and raping a woman in Tippecanoe County shot himself in the head twice Thursday, ending the six-hour standoff near Lebanon, Indiana.
Officers tried to negotiate with Paul A. Etter, 55, who was on the run for six days and driving a stolen truck recognized by a Lebanon police officer.
Nielsen said in a press conference about 6:30 p.m. Thursday that officers showed "a lot of restraint" throughout the encounter.
Etter shot himself in the head when the SWAT team approached his vehicle.
After the first shot to his head, Etter fell to the ground but got back up and tried to provoke officers to finish the attempt for him, according to Nielsen.
The SWAT and sniper teams resisted, and five minutes later, Etter shot himself again, this time successfully.
Police suspect his weapon malfunctioned, leading to the delay.
"We did everything we could to save his life and mitigate the lives of our safety personnel that were out there today," Nielsen said. "So a very troubling day for the city of Lebanon, the county of Boone County, the public safety officers that responded."
The sheriff said the officers from several agencies, including the U.S. Marshal's Service, worked well together.
"Unfortunately it didn't turn out well for Mr. Etter, and he took his own life, but what I can tell you is that all of our people are going home, they're all safe, and it's unfortunate this had to happen," he said.
Lebanon police Lt. Ben Phelps said after one of his department's officers spotted Etter traveling on Indiana 39, Etter stopped but refused to leave the vehicle and then put a handgun to his head, prompting officers to back off.
Etter moved the truck into a field, "and we spent the next several hours trying to negotiate with him," Phelps said. Through his conversation and demeanor, it seemed Etter "had his mind made up how it was going to end."
Nielsen explained that Etter and the police communicated from about 50 yards apart. Police provided him with a throw phone for better communication, but Etter never accepted the phone.
"That tells me right there that he just wanted to either force our hands to have to shoot him, take legal action against him or him pull the trigger himself," Nielsen said.
Without the throw phone, "there was really no negotiations," Nielsen said. The only request Etter had was for a phone to call his wife, which police did not provide.
Etter never made any threats toward officers and, in fact, was cordial, Phelps said.
Officers are still trying to determine why he was in Boone County.
Nielsen said snipers disabled the vehicle by shooting out its tires and then fired tear gas into the truck, forcing Etter to leave it. He spent most of the time outside the truck, and no shots were fired directly at Etter.
Etter, from Buck Creek, was charged with eight counts that include rape and kidnapping after he allegedly kidnapped and assaulted a woman whose car became disabled Saturday night on County Road 900 East.
Charging documents filed last week describe the ordeal.
The victim said she was driving toward her Delphi home about 4:30 a.m. when she got a flat tire, according to the probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday. After she pulled into a driveway along CR 900 East, she told police she was approached by a male - later identified as Etter - who asked whether she needed help. She told him she did not and drove toward a friend's house.
After she pulled into the friend's driveway, she assumed it was her friend who pulled up behind her, but instead it was Etter, who grabbed her, handcuffed her and proceeded to assault her.
She told police he later blindfolded her and forced her to walk to a nearby barn, where he shackled her ankles and attached them to a desk. Several hours later, according to the court record, Etter redressed, unshackled her and took her back to her car.
Police say the victim, who identified a photo of Etter as the assailant, had many bruises and injuries.
Etter was charged with mostly felonies that include rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, criminal confinement and sexual battery.