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Police use Taser to prevent man's economy-related suicide

  • Story Highlights
  • Man, 51, threatens to jump off Howard Frankland Bridge, so officer Tasers him
  • Officer: "He said, 'I'm on the street with nothing.' "
  • Man eventually thanks officers for saving him
  • Officer: "He's a regular guy that is just caught up in this economy"
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By Ashley Broughton
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(CNN) -- It didn't matter what officers said to him: The man was going to jump.

The 51-year-old was spotted Tuesday morning by a Tampa, Florida, citizen, perched on the northbound side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, which carries Interstate 275 over Old Tampa Bay. The citizen called police.

The story the man told was all too common, according to Tampa Police Department Officer Jeff Kritz. He said he was a carpenter by profession, earning $65 an hour at one time. But over the past three years, as the economy spiraled downward, he said he had lost his business, his home and his family -- his wife had divorced him, Kritz said, and his daughter was estranged.

The man came to Tampa from Rhode Island 2½ weeks ago seeking warmer weather, but has been homeless. He said he slept in the Tampa airport Monday night, but authorities threw him out on Tuesday.

So "today was the day," Kritz said. "He said, 'That's enough.'

"He never, ever thought in a million years that he would be in this kind of position," Kritz said. "He said, 'I'm on the street with nothing.'"

Another officer had already responded when Kritz pulled up to the bridge about 10:45 a.m.

"When I pulled up, he got a little nervous," Kritz said. He positioned himself behind the man, showing the other officer his Taser and maintaining eye contact. The first officer kept the man occupied, telling him Kritz was there to keep traffic away.

The man was clearly determined to end his life, so Kritz used his Taser on him.

"I knew I didn't want to go hands-on," he said. "I didn't want to wrestle him."

He didn't want to use the Taser either, Kritz said. "I'd much rather see him come down ... but that wasn't going to happen."

As Kritz used the device, which delivers a shock via wires with electrodes at their ends, the man froze, his muscles tightened and he slipped to the ground gently as the officers handcuffed him.

As he was loaded into an ambulance that would take him to a crisis center, the man began to cry -- "a good cry. It's like you're letting it out," Kritz said. "He was very thankful. He wanted help."

Kritz walked over to him and said, "Everything is going to be OK. Give me a hug."

The two embraced, and Kritz said the man told him: " 'Brother, that was from the heart. That was awesome.' "

The officer said he was thrilled with the outcome Tuesday, but noted that suicide calls are becoming more common as a result of the economic downturn, and some -- like an economy-related suicide by hanging a few days ago in the Tampa area -- don't have happy endings.

In talking to the man, Kritz said the officers tried to tell him that "a lot of us are in this situation, there is help out there ... I can get him the help he needs. Although he says 'There's nothing you can do,' you continue talking."

But he said he was convinced the man was serious and his decision was final. "He was gonna go," Kritz said. "That's why I decided to Tase him."

"He was a regular guy," Kritz said. "He's a regular guy that is just caught up in this economy.... The sad part is, it could be one of us in a few years. Nobody's immune from this."

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