On Sunday, the Culpeper Police Department says a man was "yelling suicidal statements" as he climbed the 250-foot-tall Verizon cell phone tower off Old Brandy Road. Officers were able to de-escalate the situation and the man was safely returned to the ground and transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and treatment of self-inflicted injuries.
Culpeper Police Chief Chris Jenkins said in a news release that "this was the best possible resolution and an excellent example of officer bravery during a high risk situation." Jenkins expressed gratefulness that man is alive and hopes that he receives all of the support services necessary to fully recover.
The incident was reported around 12:18 p.m. and the man reached the top of the tower shortly after officers arrived at the scene. Additional resources were requested and the police department says a "joint command center" was established with members including police Capt. Tim Chilton, volunteer fire department members and department of emergency services members.
Once the perimeter was secured, Lt. Brittany Jenkins and Officer Al Cooper climbed to the tower's second highest platform.
Chris Jenkins noted that Brittany Jenkins and Cooper - who were wearing safety harnesses but had nothing for them to hook onto - "walked into a mental health crisis at 250 feet in the air with no safety net and no backup on the platforms."
“No one is calm during the early stages of a crisis. It was only due to the officers’ training, experience, and empathy that they were able to de-escalate him and get the man to safety," he said.
Both officers are certified members of the Crisis Intervention Team and the Peer Support Team.
As they climbed the tower, officers deployed drones for surveillance. As the man continued exhibiting "self-harming behaviors," the police department says he "armed himself with a pair of improvised weapons." Jenkins and Cooper joined the man on the top platform after verbally de-escalating the situation and he eventually agreed to climb down to the second platform, which was much safer with higher railings.
"At that location, the male was detained for his safety. Due to the totality of circumstances, it was determined that the male could not safely descend further on his own without a safety harness," the release says.
Division 2 of the Heavy Tactical Rescue - with members from Augusta, Harrisonburg, Rockingham, Staunton and Waynesboro - responded to the scene and helped the man and officers safely descend. The man was detained with an emergency custody order and transported to Novant Health UVA Culpeper Medical Center.
The Culpeper Police Department reminds anyone who is considering self-harm that they are not alone and help is waiting. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255 and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Both are confidential, free and available 24/7 in English or Spanish. The SAMHSA hotline can also be used to provide referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations.
The Culpeper Police Department thanks the Division 2 Heavy Tactical Rescue, Brandy Station Volunteer Fire Department, Culpeper County Volunteer Fire Department, Culpeper County Career Rescue, Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office and Salem Volunteer Fire Department for their assistance. The department also thanked Verizon for its full cooperation during this incident.