A man “in crisis” in an apparent standoff appeared to have been taken into custody more than 3 hours after he climbed behind a sign on a 5 Freeway overpass in East Los Angeles, prompting the freeway’s shutdown and a SigAlert during Friday afternoon rush hour.
A Caltrans camera showed the man clinging to the side of a sign attached to the Downey Road overpass near Olympic Boulevard (map) just before 4 p.m. Earlier reports indicated the man was a suspected tagger, an official with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department later said he was not.
Earlier, Sgt. R. Laflin with the department told the Los Angeles Times the man was possibly suicidal and said crisis negotiators were talking to him. The Sheriff’s Department later clarified that he was “in crisis.”
Laflin told KTLA deputies had been called to a man on an overpass at 3:45 p.m.
The man in the standoff was referred to as a “jumper” by CHP Officer Alex Rubio, and at one point, authorities placed two giant inflatable rescue air cushions below the overpass in case he decided to jump.
A SigAlert was issued on the freeway at 4 p.m. and both sides of the freeway were shut down, according to the California Highway Patrol’s incident log.
Dozens of people were gathered at the side of the roadway to watch, and the incident caused a massive backup on the freeway as motorists became stranded because of the lane closures. The closure also effected traffic on other Southern California freeways and surface streets, backing some of them up for miles.
“It’s just unfortunate that his issues are causing a lot of backup,” said Chris Ziehl, one of those watching as the situation unfolded.
“I feel it for all these people out there that are just coming out of work today on a Friday evening, and they can’t get home because some guy has personal issues. It’s just not fair,” added commuter Jesse Arcos, who was also watching.
But at about 7 p.m., the incident came to and end when the man jumped down onto a ledge by the sign, as firefighters cut the fence on the overpass in an effort to reach him.
One firefighter then got down onto the ledge, followed by a second, a Caltrans camera showed. The man appeared to be talking to the first responders before he tried to climb behind the sign.
Minutes after that, it appeared he had been surrounded by the first responders on the scene, and eventually they were able to get him off the overpass.
The man was strapped onto a gurney and then covered by what appeared to be a blanket before he was taken away.
The man was “safely” in custody, a tweet from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Enforcement Bureau stated.
Negotiators said the man never gave a specific reason for climbing onto the overpass.
The unidentified man was taken to a hospital where he was put on a 72-hour mental evaluation hold.
He was not facing any charges as of Friday night, authorities said.
All lanes of the 5 Freeway were reopened after 7:30 p.m., and the SigAlert was canceled, according to the CHP.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the man on the overpass was a suspected tagger. The story has been updated with correct information.