Non-fatal strangulation in a domestic violence situation has been called “the last warning shot.” When someone does this to an intimate partner, Lt. Daniel Rincon of the Scottsdale Police Department said this is an indication of how far this person can and will go.
“He’s told you he’s a killer,” Rincon said.
Rincon was in Parker for two days of training law enforcement officers on the subject of non-fatal strangulation in domestic violence cases. The training was organized by Colorado River Regional Crisis Services and held June 4 and 5 at Arizona Western College.
Officers from departments all over Western Arizona attended the training. Angela Hunter of CRRCS estimated 50 to 60 officers attended the training.
Rincon represented the Training Institute of Strangulation Prevention of San Diego. They’re a branch of Alliance for Hope International, a domestic violence advocacy group. He said their goal was to assist officers and prosecutors in identifying the signs of strangulation and building cases they can win in court.
Strangulation is defined as asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) characterized by a closure of air and blood passages in the neck from external pressure on the neck. It is one of the most lethal forms of violence used by men against their female intimate partners. A total of 48 states have made non-fatal strangulation a felony.
According to a 2004 report from the Hennepin County, Minn. Domestic Fatality Review Team, strangulation is one of the last abusive acts committed by a violent domestic partner before murder.
Rincon told the officers at the training in Parker that reports of “choking” and strangulation should be “red flags” on a domestic violence call.
“When you answer a domestic violence call and you’re told the victim was strangled, that should be like the odor of alcohol in a DUI investigation,” he said.
Strangulation can lead to other violent acts, including attacks on police officer. He cited a recent case in Auburn, Ala. where three police officers were shot, one fatally, while responding to a domestic violence call. The suspect in this case had tried to strangle his partner. He was prepared to ambush the police when they arrived.
“If they know you’re coming, there’s nothing stopping them for ambushing you,” he told the officers at the training.
Rincon went on to describe the symptoms of non-fatal strangulation, the signs that officers should look for, the questions they should ask, and how they should preserve the evidence.
Hunter said CRRCS brought the training to Parker so they and law enforcement agencies can better serve victims.
“When crimes come up, we want to know how best to handle them,” she said.
Hunter said she was pleased to see so many officers attend the training.
“They seemed really receptive to the training,” she said. “I hope they’ll put it to work.”
La Paz County Sheriff’s Captain Curt Bagby said they have new guidelines from the state on strangulation in domestic violence cases. He said they work closely with Haven, an advocacy center for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Bagby said there hasn’t been a recent increase in the number of strangulation cases. He said officers didn’t know what to look for in the past. He likened the situation to human trafficking. He said one might think that was a sudden increase in the number of these cases. He said what has actually happened is officers and the general public are now more aware of it and they know what to look for.
CRRCS has many services available to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. You can call them at 928-669-8620.