Gadsden police officers successfully talked down a Gadsden man who had climbed a highway sign spanning the east-bound lanes of Meighan Boulevard and was threatening to jump Wednesday.
The incident ended peacefully about two and a half hours after it started. No charges will be filed against the man, Police Chief Richard Crouch said.
Personnel on the scene said the man spent Tuesday night at the Salvation Army after being taken there by a police officer when he did not have a place to stay. Shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, he climbed the sign in the 200 block of Meighan Boulevard that directs traffic to U.S. 411 and U.S. 431.
While the police report for the incident said the man called and told 911 he was climbing the sign to jump off and kill himself, a clerk at a nearby convenience store said a customer told her he had called 911. A pay phone was near the sign.
The department got the call at 8:18 a.m., personnel on the scene said.
During the incident, east-bound traffic on Meighan was diverted onto to Third Street, Locust Street and Second Street.
Personnel on the scene said the man was angry and complaining that no one would help him and that he wanted to go to California. Officials said he was originally from California.
He refused to talk to personnel from Cherokee-Etowah-DeKalb Mental Health who arrived on the scene shortly after the incident began.
After climbing up on the sign structure, the man took his belt off and put it around his neck and attached it to the sign support, threatening to hang himself.
At one time when he saw Fire Department personnel unloading equipment he yelled that if anyone came toward him he would jump.
Detective Willie Jimenez stood in the middle of the east-bound lanes talking to the man for about an hour. Sgt. C.A. Crisler also talked with the 20-year-old man. Crisler eventually persuaded him to climb down about 10:47 a.m.
Crouch said both officers are trained negotiators and did an excellent job of bringing the incident to a successful conclusion.
At one point, Crisler lay down in the middle of the east-bound lanes while talking to the man.
"I was just trying to get comfortable where I could make eye contact with him and talk with him," Crisler said. "Getting him off there safely is the ultimate goal."
He said the man's decision to come down had nothing to do with anything he said or did.
"It was a decision that he made," Crisler said.
About 9:50, Crisler got on a Fire Department ladder truck to get closer to the man and to give him a soft drink, although after giving him the drink Crisler ordered the ladder moved back several feet at the man's insistence.
Earlier, a bottle of water was thrown up to the man.
Crisler declined to say what they discussed but said there were some family issues the man wanted to resolve. He said the man agreed to come down and to go the police station to talk to his mother.
He said the man was threatening to jump "almost the entire time."
His mother, who lives in Albertville, was contacted by police after the man said he wanted to talk to her.
She came to the scene and shortly after she spoke to him, he began climbing down.
He was taken by police car to the Police Department where he met with her.
According to the police report, the man was taken to Gadsden Regional Medical Center for physical and mental evaluation.