How to de-escalate a dangerous situation, experts weigh in

Intervening during tense situations

PORTLAND, Ore. - The deadly attack on a TriMet MAX train has many people wondering what they can do to de-escalate a dangerous situation.  We spoke with several experts who offered up some ideas.

By all accounts the situation on the MAX train last Friday afternoon was a volatile one. Jeremy Christian is accused of berating two young girls then stabbing the men who came to their defense. Two of the men died.

Video footage captured much of the outburst, and police said that Christian confessed while in the back of a patrol car following the incident. He has been charged with murder and other counts.

“I think what happened was tragic,” said Mark Lewinsohn of Lifeworks NW.  “What those individuals did was truly heroic.”

Lewinsohn says when it comes to de-escalating a potentially dangerous situation the first thing to do is distance yourself from the aggressor.

“Generally speaking the best thing you can do is give them space and allow them to re-establish a sense of stability and not escalate the situation any further,” he said. 

Law enforcement officials say the same thing.


“The biggest thing is if you think your safety is in jeopardy you need to remove yourself from the situation if that’s possible,” said Deputy Shannon Wilde of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

If you are on a moving MAX train, like so many people were Friday, removing yourself from the situation is not an option.  Try talking to the amped up person, but do so carefully.

“Talking about innocent things, about the weather, sports, gets someone thinking about something else,” said Lewinsohn.

There is no telling if any of this would have prevented the violence that unfolded on the  MAX, but it is certainly worth sharing with more and more people questioning their safety in public places.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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