NORTHEAST FORSYTH — New details, including the tactics authorities used, have emerged from the armed standoff that unfolded Thursday afternoon outside a home near Lake Lanier in northeastern Forsyth County.
According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the 50-year-old man who held deputies at bay for nearly an hour had two weapons, not just a shotgun.
The tense situation ended peacefully when deputies subdued Kenneth Mercer with a Taser in the yard of his Swiss Air Road home and took him into custody.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Mercer remained at the Forsyth County Detention Center, where his bond has been set at $88,440. He faces four counts of aggravated assault against an officer, with additional charges likely.
Authorities have not released information about his possible motives or intentions.
Though he never fired a weapon at deputies, Mercer did reportedly point the shotgun toward them and had fired a different gun prior to their arrival.
“Evidence on scene suggested that the subject fired a handgun before deputies arrived,” said Robin Regan, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “At no time did he fire at deputies and at no time did deputies fire at him.”
Authorities have previously said that it was possible that Mercer intended to provoke deputies into a “suicide-by-cop” scenario. Regan said responders were looking into less deadly ways to defuse the situation.
“There was a lot of communication with deputies on scene,” he said. “A lot of that involved getting beanbag shotguns in place, so we could take a less lethal approach while others covered for safety.”
The incident began about 1:30 p.m. when a report came in from Fire Station 9 on nearby Browns Bridge Road, where the man’s wife reportedly drove after growing concerned about his hostile behavior.
The response from law enforcement was swift, drawing numerous deputies, including the sheriff’s SWAT and crisis negotiation teams, to the 8300 block of Swiss Air Road, off Bethel Road.
Negotiators were able to speak with Mercer, who did not fully comply with their instructions while pacing around his yard.
“There was a lot of face-to-face communication, but they could not get him to pick up his cell phone,” Regan said. “He did not respond to everything that negotiators said, and only spoke to them briefly and sporadically.”
As negotiators were dealing with Mercer, members of the SWAT team were able to approach in an armored personnel carrier, or Bearcat.
“Once they were in place, the subject laid down the shotgun as part of our negations and stepped toward us,” Regan said.
Just when the confrontation appeared to be over, Mercer made a last-ditch move.
“As the members of the SWAT team ran to take him in custody, he attempted to lunge towards the shotgun,” Regan said. “Luckily, SWAT members were able to take him into custody before he got his hands back on the shotgun, but it was very close.”
During the standoff, deputies closed down roads, including Bethel, in the heavily wooded residential area near Mercer’s home and evacuated neighbors. After the standoff deputies searched his house.