CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. - Police officers in Culpeper County, Virginia climbed a 250-foot cell phone tower Sunday trying to save a man threatening to jump.
Police drone video shows the man at the top of the tower and two Culpeper officers, Lt. Brittany Jenkins and Officer Al Cooper, going up after him.
"We tried the bullhorn and other methods, but it wasn’t working," said Jenkins.
"At several points, he had gotten up on that second rail and he was just Supermanning over the rail," said Cooper.
They said they knew to communicate with him, it had to be face-to-face. They started the climb, stopping at the platform just underneath the top. They said they talked to the man, but mostly listened.
"Understanding him and his frustrations at that moment. Understanding what led him to that point and finally letting him get it off his chest," said Jenkins.
But there came a point when he stopped talking and made a beeline for the edge, according to the officers.
Drone footage shows the man standing on the edge of the platform looking out, the wind blowing his shirt.
Cooper slowly walks toward him.
"I had my hands out. I wanted him to know, I’m not trying to grab you, I’m just trying to talk," he said. "We were just talking back and forth and I said, ‘This isn’t how it’s going to end today.’"
Jenkins came up next.
"We were so high up that we felt like if this got to be a hands-on situation, it wasn’t going to end well," she said. "Just because somebody was going to fall. That was our biggest fear 250 feet up."
They said they realized the man had a knife. But they were able to make a break through where he agreed to be handcuffed and then harnessed so he could come down safely.
"This was a situation of just letting him know we were all in it together," said Cooper. "We were up there with him now."
Across Virginia, there’s a new effort to keep police out of these mental health crises when possible.
The Marcus Alert, a statewide mental health alert system to ensure behavioral health experts are involved in responding to individuals in crisis and the role of law enforcement is limited, was signed into law in December.
"These guys are tremendous who responded and helped this individual, but their job his law enforcement," said Jim LaGraffe,
Executive Director of Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services.
LaGraffe said this region has been chosen as one of five in the state to pilot the Marcus Alert program that is meant to eventually expand and overhaul the response to mental health emergencies.
"This gentleman is someone who is known to local law enforcement, so being able to connect to that person before an event like this happens is critical to the process," said LaGraffe.
The man is now getting the help he needs. Jenkins said she spoke to him Monday morning.
"I would say he’s happy to be getting help," she said.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741.