A distraught man who sat on a freeway bridge in San Diego for 21 hours jumped Friday morning but survived after landing on shrubs on an embankment below.
The busy stretch of southbound Interstate 5 at the Interstate 8 connector had remained shut down to traffic since 2:25 p.m. Thursday as police and crisis negotiators tried to talk the man down, repeatedly asking him to surrender without hurting himself.
The 36-year-old man sat on the guard rail and did not budge. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) said he was uncooperative, refusing to come down to a safe location, threatening to jump and endangering motorists below the bridge.
During the 21-hour standoff, crisis negotiators, at times using megaphones, spoke to the man as he sat on the ledge. At one point, negotiators got close enough to rest their hands on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him.
Firefighters and medics were standing by below the bridge, next to an inflatable yellow landing mat intended to cushion the man's fall in case he jumped.
At 11:30 a.m. Friday, the man jumped backwards off the bridge, away from the cushion. He landed in shrubs just off the side of the freeway. Medics rushed to his aid and placed him on a stretcher. The man was conscious and mumbling, and appeared to be okay. Police said he suffered only minor injuries; he also complained of back pain.
The man was arrested, loaded into an ambulance and taken to UC San Diego Medical Center.
The heavy police activity caused major traffic troubles in the area, both Thursday afternoon and well into Friday's morning commute. The California Highway Patrol shut down southbound lanes of I-5 at the westbound Interstate 8 connector.
Throughout the ordeal, commuters experienced lane closures on northbound I-5, also, to westbound I-8, southbound I-5 between SeaWorld Drive and I-8 and northbound I-5 to the eastbound I-8 connector.
By early Friday, some of those closures had been lifted, but some still remained in place, including northbound I-5 to westbound I-8, and southbound I-5 between SeaWorld Drive.
During the morning commute, southbound I-5 traffic was being diverted to Rosecrans Street. CHP officers were also recommending drivers avoid the area by diverting to State Route 52.
All lanes reopened to traffic shortly after SDPD took the man into custody.
CHP officials held a news briefing Friday to discuss the standoff.
"The ultimate goal was to save the individual's life," CHP Officer Jake Sanchez said.
The officer said three crisis negotiation teams were used over the lenghty afternoon-overnight-morning ordeal: a local team, a federal team and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service team.
Sanchez had no details about the man's personal life or what motivated him to sit on the bridge in the first place. Sanchez said the man could face charges from both CHP and the SDPD, as the investigation is ongoing.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis and needs helps, call San Diego County’s hotline at (888) 724-7240. Trained professionals are on the other end of the line, 24/7, available to help.