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Police use beanbag weapon on armed man

Mar 30, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Authorities say they were forced to use a specialized shotgun that uses beanbag "bullets" when a suicidal man came after officers early Tuesday.

Riverton police Capt. C.T. Smith said his agency responded to a call at 3:37 a.m. Tuesday to an apartment on Redwood Drive, about a man, later identified as Zachary Bellinger, 21, of Riverton, who was armed with a knife and threatening to harm himself.

"Officers saw Zachary Bellinger inside of the dimly-lit apartment and challenged Bellinger to show the officers his empty hands as officers were standing at the back door," Smith said in a news release. "Bellinger came toward the officers in a quick manner with his fists closed."

Smith said officers, fearing for their safety, deployed a "less lethal" round from the shotgun, striking the suspect in the right thigh with a beanbag bullet, which stopped his aggressive behavior.

Smith said Bellinger was taken into custody and transported to Riverton Memorial Hospital for a minor scrape and bruise. Bellinger was later released from the hospital.

"Bellinger was subsequently booked for interfering with a police officer," Smith said. "Fortunately, no officers were injured in this incident."

Smith said the RPD seldom uses the 12-gauge shotgun, which uses beanbag bullets that are similar to a sock containing weights. The special bullet has a 3- to 4-inch tail on the end that helps slow it down.

"It looks like a miniature hacky sack," he said. "It's specific to be used as less lethal. It is a tool we have that can help us in an event like this."

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