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Salem police grab man as he leaps from Veterans Bridge
By Tom Dalton
Staff writer


SALEM — When police arrived at Veterans Memorial Bridge, they saw a middle-aged man on the other side of the protective railing, sitting on a cement block looking down at the water 70 feet below.

Salem Patrolman Michael Shea, the first on the scene with Patrolman Thomas Pelletier, yelled a greeting. The man, he said, had his back to the bridge and seemed "agitated."

"I'm just sitting here minding my own business," the 49-year-old Peabody man said, according to Shea.

"You can get hurt out there," Shea said.

"I don't care," the man replied.

What transpired over the next few minutes at noon Sunday has happened before on the Beverly-Salem bridge, with one exception: This man actually started to jump and the police officers, reaching far over the railing, caught him as he was falling.

"We've grabbed people off the bridge before," said Salem Sgt. Peter Shaffaval, "but they weren't out that far and weren't in the motion of jumping."

Shea, a 17-year veteran, said the first thing he noticed when he responded to the emergency call was the location of the man on the bridge. "He was as far out as you can get," he said.

Shea, who was closest to the would-be jumper, said he tried to offer words of encouragement. He told the man that people loved him and that this wasn't the way to solve a problem. At one point, the man mentioned he was hungry, a potentially encouraging sign, and Shea offered to buy him lunch.

As Shaffaval and Salem Patrolman Kevin St. Pierre kept onlookers at a distance and traffic moving on a busy Sunday, Shea and Pelletier tried to keep talking. But this man appeared to have his mind made up, police said. Boats from the Salem and Beverly harbormasters offices were standing by below.

"I could tell this guy was wound really tight," said Shea. "He obviously didn't want us to be up there."

As police talked, the man suddenly turned away from the officers and said, "I've had enough."

With that, he put his arms between his legs, bent his head downward and started to rock forward like a diver beginning his plunge, according to Shea.

Standing about two feet away behind a bridge railing, Shea lunged and caught the man's left arm. Pelletier reached all the way across Shea's body and grabbed the jumper's chest. Together, they hauled him up over the railing and onto the bridge deck.

A Beverly officer, Kevin Coletti, helped get the man under control and handcuff him. An ambulance transported the despondent man to the mental health unit at Salem Hospital for evaluation.

In an interview yesterday, Shea said he and Pelletier were trying to talk the man off the ledge, and didn't give much thought to anything else.

"I think I had so much adrenaline going," Shea said when asked what went through his head when the man, who appeared to be about 160 pounds, started to jump. Shea weighs 185, and Pelletier a few pounds more.

Shaffaval, the superior officer on the scene, praised the patrolmen for their quick action, but acknowledged the danger in reaching over a railing to grab a body about to begin its descent. But that's part of the job, he said.

"We're cops," said Shaffaval. "We can't just let people jump off a bridge. We have to do something and sometimes your life is at risk."
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Lets chalk up a good brew to the boys in Salem :t:
 

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YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
:D
 

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Excellant Job Guys! Glad to see they were able to grab him off the bridge.
 
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