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Officers, mental health clinicians thwart suicide attempt

Two sheriff’s deputies stand near a man threatening to jump off the Spanish Creek Bridge on Aug. 20. The man stood outside the rails for more than two hours before he was pulled to safety by officers and mental health workers. Photo by Laura Beaton
Dan McDonald
Managing Editor

A man who said he wanted to kill himself is alive today thanks to heroic efforts by local police officers and county mental health workers last week.

The man, who has not been identified, stood outside the rails of the Spanish Creek Bridge for more than two hours on Wednesday, Aug. 20.

He said he was going to jump.

Eventually, officers and mental health staffers got close enough to grab the man and pull him off the ledge.

Sheriff Greg Hagwood and California Highway Patrol Commander Joe Edwards said they were exceptionally pleased by the way the situation was handled.

“I am so proud of them,” Edwards said. “Obviously a situation like this is not going to turn out successful every time. But this just shows the depth and quality of people we have in this community.”

The CHP commander and sheriff both said they were preparing commendations for the officers and mental health workers who teamed up to pull the man to safety.

Edwards and Hagwood credited the mental health staffers for playing a key role.

“The mental health employees were instrumental in saving that person’s life,” Hagwood said. “He is alive thanks to the courageous actions of those employees and the CHP and sheriff’s officers who were on that bridge.”

The incident began when two people hiking along Spanish Creek looked up and saw a man standing outside the bridge railing.

They said they tried to talk to the man, but that he wouldn’t say much.

The hikers called 911 at 10:47 a.m. after the man on the bridge told them they would have “one hell of a fishin’ story” to tell.

They described him as a male about 45 to 50 years old wearing a baseball hat and blue jeans. They told the dispatcher the man said “something happened last night.”

Officers began arriving on the scene about eight minutes later.

Hagwood and Edwards said they followed the developments by phone. As additional officers arrived, they stayed at the ends of the bridge.

The bridge remained opened to motorists during the incident.

“There were more officers on the scene than people saw. That was on purpose,” Edwards said. “Too many badges and guns can make things worse.”

The sheriff and CHP commander both decided to call the county mental health department for assistance.

Mental Health Director Peter Livingston dispatched two staffers — the adult program chief and a therapist — to the scene. The clinicians arrived within an hour of the initial 911 call.

With the mental health therapists joining the officers in talking to the man, the officers and staffers were reportedly able to get close enough to touch him.

The standoff ended when the three officers and two mental health workers reportedly moved in together to overpower the man and pull him to safety.

When asked about his clinicians’ role in preventing the suicide, Livingston said it was a great example of people working together. He said he was thankful that no one got hurt.

Unlike police officers, the county’s mental health clinicians don’t usually travel to the scene of an incident that could put them in harm’s way.

“I authorized it,” Livingston said. “These things so rarely come up that we aren’t usually put in this situation.

“It happened to be close, and we happened to have people available. And I have to say that everybody that was (on the bridge) worked together well.”

The people on the bridge included CHP officer Brian Goings, Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Johns and Deputy Robert Gott.

The mental health clinicians asked that they not be identified in this story.

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