Police convince troubled man to give up gun

Two hour Washington Blvd. stand-off ends peacefully

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By BILL DWYER

An allegedly suicidal Oak Park man who fired a gunshot into the ceiling of his bedroom then engaged Oak Park police in a two hour stand off last Wednesday night, was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation by a Circuit Court judge Thursday.

John S. Nichols III was taken into custody by an Oak Park SWAT team following a tense two hour stand-off that started just before 9:15 Wednesday night. As of Monday afternoon he was being held by the Cook County Sheriff in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Police were first called to the scene by Nichols' social worker to conduct what Oak Park Deputy Chief Robert Scianna termed a "welfare check" at 9:13 p.m.

The social worker had reportedly described Nichols as suicidal and armed with a gun. The counselor's concerns were soon proven well grounded.

"As the first two responding cars pulled up, the gun shot went off," Scianna said Thursday. Additional units were called to the single-family home at 412 Washington Blvd. (just west of Ridgeland), and police evacuated a neighboring home and a row of apartments and condominiums on the south side of Washington.

Meanwhile Nichols' family members?#34;including his mother, brother and sister?#34;fled the home.

A special response team was then called in and made contact with Nichols by phone. Those negotiators finally persuaded Nichols, who Scianna said was walking around the house with the gun, to leave the home.

Shortly after 11 p.m. Nichols walked out the front door of the house and haltingly followed police instructions. "He walked out on his own," said Police Chief Rick Tanksley.

Nichols is a 2002 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School.

Following Nichol's arrest, police swept the house, looking for a weapon. They found three, said Scianna, including the .38 caliber handgun Nichols is accused of firing into his bedroom ceiling. Police also confiscated a rifle and another handgun, as well as a quantity of ammunition.

Scianna and other senior Oak Park police officials met with the Cook County State's Attorney's office Thursday to assure that Nichols, who Tanksley described at the scene Wednesday as "a person with a psychiatric disorder who reportedly was not on his medications," was held long enough to be evaluated.

Tanksley added that Oak Park police have had previous contacts with Nichols but did not describe the nature of those incidents.

Scianna said Thursday that Nichol's mother, who was present in court Thursday, supported the decision to have her son undergo an evaluation. The mother declined to comment on her son's situation when contacted by phone Thursday.

Nichols was charged with Reckless Conduct, a misdemeanor, and was given local citations for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm. Nichols did in fact have a valid Firearm Owners Identification card, though he's not likely to keep it long.

"We're going to work with the state police to have that [card] revoked," said Scianna.

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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