Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Keenan Polen sits outside his residence where the incident took place. A man possibly inebriated on amphetamines was shot by police just steps away after he refused to holster his handgun.
SAFFORD – College student Keenan Polen didn’t think twice when he saw Douglas Van Raam pull a handgun on a city employee and threaten to fatally shoot him. Polen immediately put himself in harm’s way while attempting to get Van Raam to holster his weapon.
Law enforcement officers ultimately ended up shooting Van Raam on the afternoon of July 18. He was hospitalized and then jailed upon his release on a warrant. Van Raam has since been charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His case is being heard in Graham County Superior Court while he is being held on a $200,000 bond. The officer-involved shooting is under investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Polen’s mother, Alissa Stockton, previously knew Van Raam from her days as an instructor at Eastern Arizona College in 2011. She said he recently reached out looking for work and she hired him for some landscaping projects.
“I hadn’t seen him in probably five-ten years and he just texted me and said he wanted work, so I said sure. It just ended up not good. I didn’t know he was on meth until he started getting sort of volatile.”
As Van Raam continued to perform landscaping services for Stockton, he moved out of a relative’s house and was staying at the Stockton home, sleeping outside on a hammock under a pergola Van Raam had previously constructed.
“When he was working here he was staying at his dad’s and then we went on vacation,” Stockton said. “When we came back, he was sleeping underneath the gazebo.”
Stockton said Van Raam began experiencing hallucinations and that was when she informed him his time of employment on her yard was complete. She said she paid Van Raam $200 and told him to leave the property or she would call the police.
Van Raam ended up calling the police on himself on Monday, July 17, and they spoke to him and informed him to leave the residence – he did not follow that advice.
On the morning of Tuesday, July 18, Van Raam was still doing landscaping on the property when a Safford Utilities employee arrived. Van Raam appeared to take offense at the city employee’s presence and began arguing with him. The argument escalated to where Van Raam chased after the city employee and left the yard while pulling a handgun out from a hip sack and pointing it directly at the city employee.
Polen immediately leaped from his residence and placed himself between Van Raam and the city employee, all the while trying to talk Van Raam down.
At that point, Van Raam didn’t recognize Polen even though Van Raam had been doing yard work at Polen’s residence for some time. It was apparent that Van Raam was not in the right frame of mind – he was agitated and was holding a loaded firearm.
“I was just eating breakfast,” Polen said. “I put my plate in the sink and I look out the door and I just see Doug arguing, so I get out there and he’s pointing a gun at the guy.”
Polen tried to de-escalate the situation, which allowed the city employee to call the police. Officers arrived shortly thereafter, and Polen then found himself in the crossfire as law enforcement personnel discharged multiple shots (possibly as many as six) with three striking Van Raam and two errant bullets apparently striking Polen’s residence.
“They told him to put the gun down several times but he does have the gun down but still in his hand and then he brings it up . . . and then they start to shoot him.”
Inside the residence, Polen’s sister, Manissa Polen, also feared for her safety as bullets struck her house. Manissa noticed Van Raam speaking aggressively to the city worker and called for the police as well.
Keenan is taking the incident in stride as he continues to work his way toward the completion of a Cybersecurity education at EAC.
“Pretty crazy for a freaking Tuesday,” Keenan Polen said. “I’m just glad that guy (city employee) is safe.”
After the shooting, the family was basically locked down in their residence for 12 hours while DPS performed its investigation, which included the confiscation of another handgun Van Raam had on the property. Stockton is just glad her family is safe.
“He’s a hero of mine,” she said of her son.