Dan Hicks got home from work a few minutes late Wednesday night, and his wife asked him why.
It wasn’t until she was watching the news on TV the next morning that she got her answer. Hicks, a Raleigh Police Department officer for six years, hadn’t mentioned that just before his shift ended Wednesday he had talked a distraught man out of jumping from a bridge on the Beltline into traffic on Wade Avenue.
The incident was captured by the state Department of Transportation traffic camera. Video of Hicks and the man embracing and walking off the bridge together has gone viral on social media and national newscasts, prompting an outpouring of praise from across the country.
The clean-cut, soft-spoken Hicks, 32, waved off any suggestions that he was a hero. He said he thinks Triangle residents and “any number of people across the country” would have stopped and done the same thing.
“What I did last night was part of my job,” he said Thursday afternoon at the Southwest District station. “There was a citizen crying for help, and we certainly answered his cry, and hopefully he will get the help he needs.”
Police have not released the man’s name, and his face was obscured from the DOT video.
Hicks, a father of two, was just finishing up a 12-hour shift when an off-duty officer radioed at 7:09 p.m. that a man was sitting on the Beltline bridge about 30 feet above Wade Avenue.
Hicks jumped into his patrol car and was the first officer to arrive on the bridge. He parked about 30 yards away and saw the man, dressed in jeans and a dark tank top, sitting on the bridge with his body on the outside of the guardrail.
Hicks could see that the man was upset. He was weeping and smoking a cigarette, with one arm crooked over the guardrail to hold himself in place until he decided to jump.
The officer’s police academy training kicked in, along with compassion for a fellow human being in the throes of a personal crisis.
“I didn’t know him,” Hicks said. “I had never encountered him before, so it was incumbent to establish a rapport with him and make sure things did not get worse. I didn’t want to scare or startle him.”
Hicks said he moved in fast while comparing the physical size of the man with his own to determine if he was capable of pulling him back over the guardrail to safety. When he got closer, he asked the man if he could come over and talk with him.
“He didn’t really answer,” Hicks said. “I took that as a ‘yes.’”
The officer gave his first name to the man when he was just a few feet from him.
“I told him he was going to be coming over the bridge with me,” Hicks said. “He was OK with that.”
The man clambered over the guardrail and walked over to Hicks, who told the man, “You’re OK” before pulling him forward and hugging him.
“He looked like he needed it,” Hicks said about the hug. “And for his safety and mine, I pulled him toward me.”
The officer and the man embraced for a few moments. Hicks said he recognized “a standup individual” who was looking for attention to get the help that he needed.
Although they embraced for more than 10 seconds, Hicks said he could not remember what the man said to him.
“He was very upset,” the officer said. “He knew what he had done was drastic. He had gotten himself in a bad spot. He was at the bottom of a dark hole.”
Paramedics who were standing by assisted the man to a waiting ambulance.
Hicks said the incident, from the time he heard the radio call at his desk to when paramedics started evaluating the man, was over in about 10 minutes.
The encounter wasn’t so important that he thought to mention it to his wife Wednesday or again Thursday morning before he left for work.
“My wife saw it on the news after the kids went to school,” he said. “She called me and asked if that was what I was doing last night when I came in late.”