Buffalo police hostage negotiator Gary E. Teague quickly got to know James H. Gilchriese.
Separated by 40 feet and a concrete barrier on the Niagara Thruway, the two became intertwined on a chilly May evening. Gilchriese, holding a gun pointed at his head in one hand and a cell phone in the other, had an hourlong chat with Teague.
That telephone conversation, according to Gilchriese, saved his life.
Teague, also a detective with the Mobile Response Unit, said he was grateful the tense situation ended well and appreciated Gilchriese's statements in court Friday thanking him for his role in ending the standoff.
"Not very often do people really thank us for what we do," Teague said, sharing the credit with fellow officers. "It was training and the people that surrounded us that made it come out the way it did. Our main goal is to keep his mind off hurting himself or someone else."
The situation was a small movement of Gilchriese's arm away from ending tragically, Teague acknowledged.
"If he would have moved the weapon off his head, he wouldn't have stood a chance," Teague said. "Had he spun that gun toward the crowd, it would have been out of my hands. It would have gone tactical."
Gilchriese blamed the episode on alcohol, a fight with his girlfriend and a combat flashback to Vietnam.
Teague said Gilchriese, whose voice drifted in and out of an aggravated tone, often mentioned Vietnam and his firearms training.
Arrangements were made for Gilchriese to talk to his girlfriend during the ordeal. Toward the end, Gilchriese also asked Teague if he could talk to a police officer and fellow veteran, with whom he had spoken earlier in the standoff.
Teague, a 29-year veteran of the Buffalo police force with five years as a hostage negotiator, said he believes Gilchriese was close to giving up when police made their move, detonating a loud flash device and taking him into custody as darkness set in.
Teague knew of the SWAT team's approach and was responsible for distracting Gilchriese.
"My job was just to keep him occupied and make sure he was not aware of what was going on around him," said Teague, adding that he was explaining the procedure for Gilchriese to set his gun down and surrender.
The two never have met and haven't talked since the standoff, but Teague says he understands Gilchriese's gratitude.
"After he had a chance to think about what happened to him -- and that he's still here today -- I'd be thankful."