Spokane police made the decision to Taser a bridge jumper Friday after learning he allegedly had attempted to pull an officer over with him during a previous suicide attempt elsewhere, the Spokane police chief said Wednesday.
At the tail end of 20 hours of talking to Josh Levy from the edge of the Monroe Street Bridge, authorities heard from an out-of-town officer who warned that Levy, during one of several other suicide attempts throughout the state, grabbed him when officers rushed Levy, Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said at a news conference. They started to fall over a bridge railing, but another officer held on to them, she said.
“Knowing that information, we wanted to plan for an in-custody tactic that would keep the officers as safe as possible from risk of being grabbed and taken over the railing by Mr. Levy,” Kirkpatrick said about the Spokane incident.
Levy jumped to his death at the end of Friday’s standoff.
Kirkpatrick did not say who the tipster was or which police department he works for. It was also unclear why Kirkpatrick did not mention her department’s rationale for Taser use until after officers debriefed the incident Wednesday.
She did not answer additional questions after Wednesday’s conference and was not available for further comment.
On Friday, the tipster told Spokane negotiators to “beware of the dramatic ending,” Kirkpatrick said.
Just before 3:20 p.m. Friday, negotiators convinced Levy to urinate in the cover of a portico on the bridge, Kirkpatrick said. Officers had decided to use a Taser on Levy and then handcuff him.
“The decision to use the Taser was based on our knowledge that he was a jumper, he had jumped before,” she said, “and the information that the other negotiator gave us that he had also almost been pulled over the railing when he offered his hand.”
Police thought the Taser would bring Levy to the ground long enough to handcuff him, Kirkpatrick said. But just one Taser prong made contact, and the 28-year-old jumped more than 75 feet to his death in front of dozens of onlookers.
At a news conference last week, Kirkpatrick said negotiators had reached a tentative agreement with Levy for him to come off the railing and be taken into custody. On Wednesday, it was unclear whether the pact to let Levy urinate in the portico involved an agreement to be Tasered or handcuffed.
Dave Breidenbach, Levy’s father, told The Spokesman-Review last week that police assured him no violence would be used against his son.
Levy was released from Western State Hospital on July 24 after a doctor deemed him stable, Kirkpatrick said. Two days later, he perched himself on the Monroe Street ledge and sat for 20 hours, his paranoia steadily increasing without medication for his mental illness.
He had threatened suicide numerous times before, and actually jumped from three bridges, Kirkpatrick said.
During a suicide threat on the Agate Pass Bridge in Kitsap County about six months ago, Levy nearly fell into a wintry Puget Sound, said Domingo Almirol, assistant chief of the Suquamish Police Department in Western Washington.
“He let go,” Almirol said. “More or less, he just let go of the bridge and one of our officers grabbed him.”
Almirol said he was not aware of any instance in which Levy tried to pull an officer over a bridge railing. Levy previously succeeded in jumping off the Agate Pass Bridge but did not suffer serious injuries.
Levy jumped off a bridge in Bremerton from which he had previously been talked down, and also threatened jumping from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, according to a Suquamish police report.
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