Eyewitnesses to a suicide Monday evening in Spokane said a bystander charged at the man who was threatening to jump and pulled him off the outer retaining wall of the Monroe Street Bridge just before the man broke free of the grasp and jumped to his death.
Two witnesses said traffic had stopped at 6:15 p.m. and two police officers were trying to talk the man out of jumping.
Suddenly, a man in his early 20s got out of a car and charged down the sidewalk toward the suicidal man, who was looking the other way and talking to the officers. The officers had talked the erratic man off the wall and back onto the sidewalk.
But he heard the bystander’s footsteps charging toward him and jumped back onto the wall.
The bystander pulled the man back onto the sidewalk, but the man broke away and jumped over the outer railing, dropping into the Spokane River below, said Mark Fox, who was headed south on his bike when he encountered the suicidal man.
The officers “might have been able to negotiate and talk him out of the whole thing,” Fox said.
The other witness, who declined to give her name, said, “Civilians should stay out of that stuff.” The man was “really spooked by the guy, he just jumped,” she said.
An autopsy Tuesday showed that the 31-year-old died of drowning and hypothermia but also had broken ribs and a bruised lung.
Spokane police were investigating the case, and they confirmed that a bystander had gotten involved, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, police spokeswoman.
She had no other comment on the bystander’s actions.
The incident began when the man appeared near the Occupy Spokane food area in a small park at Spokane Falls Boulevard and Monroe Street.
The man was jumping on vehicles and acting erratically. He ran onto the bridge and began removing clothes and was striking vehicles. He knocked a mirror off a minivan, Fox said.
He appeared to be under the influence of drugs, the witnesses said.
He climbed onto the outer retaining wall of the bridge and straddled the wall at least three times, witnesses said. He ran about 100 yards north on the bridge at one point.
He also struck a motorcycle with his fist.
Officers used their vehicles to block traffic.