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By Patrick Blais

Published on October 1st, 2008

STONEHAM, MA - - Local officials applauded a Stoneham detective last week for using restraint when a woman armed with two knives charged at him in an apparent attempt to commit "suicide by cop" last month.

According to Police Chief Richard Bongiorno, Stoneham Det. George Alger was working a weekend patrol assignment on Sept. 20 when he overheard a call about a domestic disturbance along Citation Avenue at approximately 9 p.m.

The first officer at the scene, Alger was almost immediately confronted by 54-year-old Katherine Saunders, who charged at the detective while armed with a pair of one foot long knives.

Ordering the Citation Avenue woman's family members away, the detective retreated to the back of his police cruiser, where he was able to establish a safe distance from the 54-year-old.

"Detective Alger's command to drop the knives were ignored and the assailant kept yelling, 'Shoot me. Shoot me,'" said Bongiorno. "Detective Alger quickly assessed the situation and realized that this out of control woman was attempting to commit suicide by cop."

"He was able to quickly step back in retreat, creating a distance while informing other family members to run away," the chief explained.

Undeterred, the knife wielding assailant again approached the detective and eventually pulled open the cruiser's front door, say police. She then began slashing the vehicle's seats with the weapons and Alger again fended off the Citation Avenue resident, this time with pepper spray.

Saunders was later safely detained when back-up officers arrived at the scene. The 54-year-old was transported to an area hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

The Citation Avenue resident has been charged with three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and malicious destruction of property over $250 for her alleged role in the incident.

According to Bongiorno, Alger will be recognized by the police department for his calm response and refusal to use deadly force against the knife brandishing suspect.

The police chief will also honor back-up Officers Renee Lehmann and Sgt. David Stefanelli for successfully and safely taking the 54-year-old into custody.

Last week, Selectman veteran Robert Sweeney indicated that he too plans to formally recognize Alger and other responding officers for their actions.

"Detective Alger performed his duties in an exemplary fasion, choosing alternatives within the use of force continuum rather than lethal force," said Bongiorno. "His more than 30 years of experience, combined with tremendous discretion, resulted in a positive conclusion to a potentially lethal situation."
 
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