After nearly two hours of talking, the woman put the loaded revolver down.

Valencia County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Lyle picked up the weapon, cleared it and handed it off to his partner before sitting next to her.

“I talked to her another 10 minutes about what was going on in her life and how she had gotten to where she was now,” Lyle said. “While we were talking, she ended up having a seizure and I held her and waited for the paramedics to arrive.”

Submitted photo
Valencia County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Lyle, center, was named the Valencia County Employee of the Month for his actions during a mental health crisis call last month. He was presented with the honor at the Aug. 9 Valencia County Commission meeting by Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil, left, and VCSO Lt. Joseph Rowland, right.

On July 15, Lyle and his partner and two other VCSO deputies responded to a late-night call — a woman threatening suicide had left her house on foot, with a loaded gun.

The deputies talked to family members, trying to get as much information about her state of mind and an idea of where she might have gone, Lyle said. One of the family members was able to locate her cell phone using an app.

It showed her about 200 yards from the house, so two deputies drove up the next road over and Lyle and his partner began walking down the road she lived on, shining their lights into fields and yards trying to find the woman.

He finally saw her, sitting under a small structure about 70 yards off the road.

“Knowing she was armed, I wanted to get to her as quickly as possible,” Lyle said. “I had my partner radio the other officers and cautiously approached her. I just began talking to her right away. I just felt like it was the right thing to do, to start talking to her.”

As he talked, Lyle said he tried to play out every scenario possible in his head.

“In situations like this, we’re trained to ‘what if’ the situation. When you get involved in a call with a weapon, you have to think what if they do this or that, so hopefully, you already have an answer,” he said.

In addition to running “what if” scenarios in his head, Lyle said he was trying to help the woman find a reason to live, to make her realize there was somebody or something that needed her.

“It’s a matter of ‘What can I find that they are not thinking about right now?’ I try to very calmly get information about their kids or what they like to do for fun. To re-spark their want to live,” he said. “If I see something sparking, I keep talking about that. If I find a subject that makes them agitated, I stay away.”

This wasn’t the first time Lyle has dealt with a person who wanted to harm themselves, he said, so he’s learned to be sympathetic but not cross the line and tell them he completely understands what they’re going through.

“I tell them I can understand they’re having a hard time; I can see they’re frustrated and I want to help,” he said. “I know people in those situations don’t want to hear I know what they’re going through; they feel alone.”

Lyle presented himself as a human being to the woman that night, telling her his first name, showing her he wasn’t just “Deputy Lyle.” He emphasized she hadn’t done anything wrong; the deputy said the woman seemed to have trust issues due to past interactions with law enforcement.

“I told her I wouldn’t lie to her or sugar coat things,” he said. “Eventually, she wanted to see my face. After talking so long, I think she wanted to connect. She cared about something other than ending her life. I felt like when she asked to see my face, I had earned her respect. I told her I’d love to do that, but she had to put the gun down.”

Once she put the gun down, Lyle was more than happy to remove the face covering he was wearing due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Admitting it’s cliché, but saying it’s something he’s very passionate about, Lyle feels most people go into law enforcement to make a difference.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love taking bad guys to jail when they deserve it, but the biggest difference I can make is changing people’s lives,” he said. “I don’t know how much impact I had on her life as a whole but I had a small impact that night. I get a lot of personal satisfaction just helping people.”

Lyle, an Army veteran who has been with the department for five months and in law enforcement for about three years, was recognized as the Valencia County Employee of the Month at the Aug. 19 Valencia County commission meeting. A letter of commendation will be added to his personnel file.

“(The woman) was in a state of crisis. She had a loaded revolver to her head with her finger on the trigger,” Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil told the commissioners. “Deputy Lyle is a great credit to himself, the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement. I want to thank him for his service and for being part of a great team.

“He showed great strength and honor. The team worked together to help this woman where other people might not have been so kind as to look for her and spend so much time with her.”

Valencia County Commission Chairman Jhonathan Aragon said VCSO was a “stand-up group” of people.

“They definitely care about this community,” Aragon said. “They keep us all safe here in Valencia County, whether it’s a routine traffic stop or a mental health crisis.”

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.