A first-year student at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine helped de-escalate a critical incident that possibly saved a man’s life on August 11.
Shaha Aziz, 24, from Beaumont, Texas, and a graduate of the University of Houston before enrolling at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) at New Mexico State University, was driving home shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 11, when she saw a man standing near the Interstate 25 overpass at Cholla Road. That location is a short distance from BCOM.
According to Aziz, the man was pacing back and forth near the edge of the I-25 overpass and appeared to be in emotional distress.
Aziz pulled to the side of the road and tried to communicate with the man who initially ran away. Aziz persisted and found the man on the other side of the highway. She began speaking with the man and learned he was contemplating suicide.
The medical student established a rapport with the man and gained his trust. When the man made a cell phone call to a relative, Aziz spoke to the relative and helped bring calm to the situation.
Aziz then called 911 and summoned Las Cruces police for assistance. A trained Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer arrived, spoke with Aziz and the man, before taking the man into protective custody. The man was taken to Memorial Medical Center for evaluation.
“Ms. Aziz’s actions were not only phenomenally heroic, but she exemplified the attitude of what it means to be a true citizen of Las Cruces,” said officer Joshua Milks, the Las Cruces Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Coordinator. “She put her own safety on the line and took the time to prioritize someone else’s problems to ensure their livelihood.
“People often believe there is a magic book, or a rabbit that gets pulled out of a hat, to make ‘CIT’ happen. That’s not the case. All it takes is one human to show a deep empathy and understanding toward another to bring them back from the brink and give their soul time to heal.”
The Las Cruces Police Department appreciates Aziz's concern, commitment and quick response in helping care for an individual in crisis.
In a three-year period, from 2017 through 2019, Las Cruces police officers responded to an average of 899 CIT calls a year. In 2021, LCPD officers are projected to respond to approximately 2,000 CIT calls for service.
Las Cruces and Doña Ana County residents who experience mental or emotional distress can now seek assistance from the newly opened Crisis Triage Center, at 1850 Copper Loop. The Crisis Triage Center, operated by Doña Ana County, accepts voluntary commitments from throughout Las Cruces and Doña Ana County.
The Crisis Triage Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides short-term care and services for residents who may be experiencing mental or emotional distress. For information about the Crisis Triage Center, call 575/449-8159.