SWAT team whisks woman with hatchet from balcony

She behaved erratically during 6-hour standoff at downtown Vancouver apartments

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Police and firefighters Sunday night rescued a woman who was behaving erratically at Esther Short Commons apartment complex in downtown Vancouver.

Police said Sherrie L. Wilson wielded a hatchet and hammer during a bizarre sequence of events that unfolded over six hours.

Police said Wilson, 58, was taken into custody about 7:40 p.m., almost exactly six hours after she began a rampage on the second-floor adjoining balcony she shares with her neighbor.

She was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center for evaluation and will later be arrested on charges including suspicion of second-degree assault, police said.

Police responded at 1:43 p.m. to a report of a woman with a hatchet and hammer.

She was on the balcony of apartments that face easterly into a courtyard-like parking lot. Much of the time, she was outside the balcony railing. At one point, she took off her pants and kicked them off the balcony.

Just a block away, the Vancouver Farmers Market and Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival were under way.

Wilson threw dozens of belongings — contents of her purse, clothes, a flag, plastic containers — into the parking lot.

She turned her hatchet and a hammer she was holding on the bicycle of her neighbor, and on the outside lights and siding of the complex.

“She didn’t say anything the entire encounter,” said Vancouver police Sgt. Kathy McNicholas.

Finally, a Vancouver fire crew suggested a rescue plan. A ladder was placed against the railing of the neighboring apartment balcony, which pinned Wilson against the building. SWAT team members then pulled her over the railing to safety.

McNicholas said two negotiators attempted to reason with the woman from the neighbor’s apartment but did not get too close.

Asked why police did not seize her earlier, McNicholas said, “We want to help people in a safe way, and we didn’t want her to fall or jump if we made entry.”

McNicholas said about 20 officers, including the Southwest Washington Regional SWAT Team, helped in the effort, along with firefighters and an ambulance crew.

Esther Short Commons, at Eighth and Franklin streets, was completed in 2004 and has 160 apartments, most reserved for households with specific income guidelines.

A neighbor said Wilson moved into the apartment just a week ago.