PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Officers Michael Hall and Zachary DeLong were at SW 2nd and Ankeny Thursday morning when their police radios crackled about a man trying to get into someone’s fifth-story apartment window. The man was outside, on a ledge 50 feet above the ground.
“It sounded like a burglary at first,” DeLong said.
The two officers work night shift. Normally around 2 a.m. on a Thursday, things are starting to settle down.
When they pulled up to the Estate Hotel, located at 225 Northwest Couch Street, all they had to do was look up. The 911 caller was right.
“Yeah, there’s somebody on the ledge up there on the fifth floor,” the officers told dispatchers.
“It was kind of a surprise,” Hall later said as he and DeLong recounted the morning’s events. Hall has been with PPB for a little more than three years, while DeLong is in his second year on the force.
The officers called for firefighters and started to block traffic. At that point, they didn’t know what they were dealing with.
“He was unresponsive,” DeLong said. “He wasn’t listening to anything we saying.”
Hall said the man was clutching the building, standing motionless on a ledge that wraps the entire building. Police later learned he had actually walked on the ledge from one window, around the building corner and stopped at another window.
Both of the officers have received Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), standard training for all officers. Sgt. James Crooker, who has Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training (ECIT), responded to the scene.
With the man on the ledge not acknowledging them, Hall and DeLong went into the building and ran up to the fifth floor.
“It wasn’t like he was trying to get away from us,” Hall said. “It’s like he was in a place (mentally) that he shouldn’t be.”
Crooker stayed on the ground to help coordinate.
A resident on the fifth floor let the two officers inside. DeLong opened the window – knocked out the screen that fell to the ground – and looked out.
“He was standing about 12 inches away from my face and I could see that he was sobbing,” DeLong said. “He was crying.”
The officers knew at that point this wasn’t a case of criminal activity. They weren’t dealing with a burglar. They were dealing with someone who needed help.
“It just turns into a compassionate deal,” DeLong said. “Everything in my mind kind of switched from a crime investigation to this person needs help.”
DeLong said he started talking with the man, just trying to start a dialogue.
The two officers spoke calmly. They wanted to reassure the man he wasn’t in trouble. In order to help him, they said, he just needed to come inside.
Even though the man wasn’t talking with the officers, he was somewhat communicating with them. His body language showed he wanted help.
“He walked a little bit closer,” DeLong recalled.
At that point, the man reached under a window’s ledge. The officers saw an opportunity.
“We both grabbed an arm and just yarded him in,” DeLong said.
Only then did police realize how dangerous of a situation they were really in.
Not only was the man going through a mental health crisis, he was also heavily intoxicated. The ledge the man was standing on is about a foot wide. It was rainy, cold, with a slight gust of wind every now and then, so the man could have easily slipped, police said.
“It’s very, very scary to think about what could have happened,” DeLong said.
The man was transported to a local hospital for an evaluation.
Hall and DeLong both said they appreciate the crisis intervention training they’ve received from the bureau. Each officer said their training kicked in automatically without them realizing.
“It was just kind of ‘this guy’s in trouble.’ I can see that he’s not a bad person, he just needs some help right now,’” DeLong said.
As the officers’ shift ended, they walked down the stairs inside Central Precinct. A handful of detectives and command staff started trickling into the lobby wondering about the television cameras. Soon, though, news spread about what had happened earlier in the morning. The officers said they understand that every mental health crisis situation is different.
“They don’t always go the way we want them to, but we all try every day,” DeLong said.
Help is available for community members struggling from a mental health crisis and/or suicidal thoughts. Suicide is preventable.
The Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center is available 24 hours a day at (503) 988-4888.
If you or someone you know needs help with suicidal thoughts or is otherwise in an immediate mental health crisis, please visit Cascadia or call 503.963.2575. Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has an urgent walk-in clinic, open from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., 7 days a week. Payment is not necessary.
Lines for Life is also available 24 hours a day at 800.273.8255.
Information about the Portland Police Bureau’s Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) and additional resources can be found by visiting http://portlandoregon.gov/police/bhu