On a tower above the whir of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge on Sunday afternoon, Detective Claudio Sanchez and several other NYPD officers were waiting for the right second to make their moves.
A man had scaled that tower and climbed up on top of a catwalk in an apparent attempt to take his own life, and Sanchez was one of the of Emergency Services Unit officers called to make a rescue.
“He was desperate,” Sanchez said. “He was seeking help.”
NYPD harbor units waited in the East River 100 feet below. Helicopters kept surveillance from above. Traffic officers closed off all but one eastbound lane and inflated an airbag on the roadway below so Sanchez and other ESU officers could talk with the man, who eventually sat down with his left leg dangling off the concrete ledge.
Then, when the man tied a string around his neck and lost consciousness, Sanchez made what turned out to be a lifesaving move. Aerial footage provided by the NYPD shows the officer bursting into a sprint as he raced to pull the 31-year-old off the concrete and into a harness.
“I immediately talked back to my rope guy and told him give me some slack on the line,” Sanchez said. “It was an instant thing. Turned around. We grabbed him.”
The NYPD said that after Sanchez made the grab, members of the ESU unit responding to the call gave the man CPR and brought him down to the roadway where an awaiting ambulance took him to Harlem Hospital. The man is now in stable but serious condition.
“We had no second thought,” Sanchez said. “It had to be done. And the reaction was, ‘Let’s grab this guy and make sure we can get him down safely and whatever problems he had, they can be resolved.'”
Sanchez and ESU Sgt. Larry McAlister said the rescue was made possible by having dozens of officers all in place.
“They all had a job,” McAlister said. “Everyone did what they were supposed to do.
Sanchez added, “It takes all hand to make that one job right.”
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.