Post Falls ID Nov 8 2016 A man shot and fatally wounded himself outside a Post Falls megachurch Sunday while hundreds of worshipers were on lockdown inside a nearby building.
Dale L. Belieu, 59, of Craigmont, Idaho, was taken to Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Belieu shot himself in the upper chest, standing under a cross outside Real Life Ministries, after more than two hours of talking with a police negotiator, Post Falls police Chief Scot Haug said.
Belieu had indicated he was a military veteran who served in Iraq. A couple of times during the negotiation he indicated he wanted police to shoot him, Haug said.
“The officer that was negotiating with him did a very good job of explaining to him that all of us have families, too. We all have children. We don’t want to have to do something like that,” he said. “I think (the negotiating officer) actually talked him out of doing that. I really do.”
Belieu twice fired a handgun into the ground during a roughly 40-minute period, then shot himself just after noon, Haug said. Police stationed nearby set off a distracting flash-bang device after he shot himself so they could secure the handgun and allow medics to treat him.
No one else was hurt, and police did not fire at the man, Haug said.
Church members who had been attending Sunday morning services were kept inside the large Real Life auditorium nearby. Belieu was outside an older building, standing under a large cross that sits atop a small landscaped mound.
Police from several agencies, including a SWAT team, responded to the church at 1866 N. Cecil Road after 911 dispatchers received a call at 9:37 a.m. of a suicidal man with a gun. A church service was in progress at the time.
“Our main focus at that time was to make sure that we could keep those people as safe as possible,” Haug said.
He said church security did an “outstanding job” of keeping people away from where Belieu was standing. Real Life has thousands of members, including many police officers, Haug said. One of them who was inside the church at the time of the standoff was Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger.
During the tense police negotiation, worshipers inside sang and prayed, watched cartoons with their children and passed out snacks. Many also posted on Facebook and Twitter that they were safe.
The officers who spoke with Belieu tried to reassure him they could get him the help he needs, Haug said.
“What you’re trying to do in this kind of a situation is you’re trying to create hope for someone,” he said. “We have someone here who has lost hope and has had some difficult times in his life. And so the officers are just trying to reassure him that he has family, he has friends and that he has us here who care about him.”
The chief added, “He’s had some very tragic things happen with his family in the past. I don’t want to get into those, but I can understand how those would cause him to lose hope a little bit.
“I’m very proud of our officers here today that took the time to try to do the best they could to try to safe his life. This is very difficult on the officer that was involved in the negotiations,” he said.