Tribal Government & News

Tribal officer's quick thinking helps save hostage during standoff

06.28.2019 Danielle Frost Tribal employees, Public safety
Grand Ronde Tribal Police Officer James "JJ" Flynn. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)

By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

Law enforcement officers are trained to be prepared for anything when responding to a call.

However, knowing what to do in training and having the wherewithal to execute a plan calmly under intensely challenging circumstances are two very different scenarios.

On Monday, May 20, at 5:15 a.m., Grand Ronde Tribal Police Officer James “JJ” Flynn was monitoring police radio traffic and heard an emergency call for Yamhill County deputies to respond to a probable hostage situation in Sheridan. He offered to join the three officers who had already been dispatched.

When Flynn arrived at the scene, the deputies were engaged in an armed standoff with a subject who was allegedly using methamphetamine and behaving in an extremely hostile manner.

Yamhill County Sgt. Don Stackpole, who was on scene, recalled what happened in a letter to Tribal Police Chief Jake McKnight.

“At several points during the ensuing 30 minutes of that standoff, there were multiple times where I felt convinced that this incident was going to result in the serious injury or death of the subject and/or law enforcement,” he said. “An additional, aggravating factor was that there was an elderly, bedridden man trapped in the same room as the armed subject.”

Due to the small space, there was insufficient room for more than the three officers who had initially responded. When Flynn arrived, he stood just outside in the hallway and began attempting to find a peaceful solution.

“At the time of the situation, the goal was to find the safest resolution for all of the involved parties,” Flynn said. “In order to meet this goal we had to take all the innocent bystanders out of harm’s way.”

With safety as a focus, Flynn found a wheelchair in the hallway and entered the room. He walked over to the elderly victim and lifted him from the bed into the wheelchair and out of danger.

“It should be noted that at the time Officer Flynn entered the scene, he was fewer than 12 feet from a hostile subject who was armed with multiple knives,” Stackpole said. “The suspect was also actively smoking methamphetamine. Officer Flynn did not hesitate to place himself in harm’s way to help save another person’s life.”

After the victim was evacuated, Flynn remained on scene for several hours to help police establish a secure perimeter around the home and stayed until the SWAT Team from Oregon State Police arrived.

“At no time during this multiple hours-long ordeal did I ever see or hear Officer Flynn exhibit any amount of complaint or reluctance to assist,” Stackpole said. “Indeed, (he) went above and beyond the call of duty.”

McKnight credits Flynn’s actions to quick thinking, past experience working at Sheridan Correctional Institution and his law enforcement field training officers.

“JJ is a smart kid,” he said. “He found a solution and did it quickly enough so that force didn’t have to be used. It also speaks to our relationship with Yamhill County, and that he felt comfortable enough with them to do that.”

Flynn said dangerous situations are all a part of the job when it comes to police work.

“It was kind of what I signed up for and (helping to evacuate the victim) is what needed to happen,” he said.

Flynn is a 2010 Willamina High School graduate and was hired by the Tribal Police Department in 2018.