Every time Grant Davis crosses the F. Donald Rohrbaugh Memorial bridge, he thinks of what could have happened to the suicidal man he persuaded not to jump off the bridge on Halloween night.
The bridge was only about 30 feet off the ground, but below was an array of boulders that would have caused more than a scratch.
“If he would have gone over, that might have been a pretty tragic ending,” Davis, a 23-year veteran of the Garner Police Department, said.
The man, who Davis said was in his ‘50s, was having family troubles. He had gone missing. His daughter called the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and asked officers to find her father. The Wake County Sheriff’s Office told Garner police to be on the lookout for a potentially suicidal man.
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Garner police Officer Trey Robinson first spotted the man on the bridge around 9:30 p.m. He had climbed over the guard rail on the bridge on Timber Drive East, and was sitting horizontally on a ledge so small, part of his body was hanging off.
“It was dark and where he was at, it was kind of hard to see him,” Robinson said.
Dressed in all black, the man sat in the shadows away from the street lamp. Robinson initiated a conversation with the man until help arrived.
Davis, who is one of the Garner Police Department’s six-member Crisis Negotiation squad, was called to negotiate with the man to come from off the bridge. Police shut down the streets, not allowing any traffic to pass through.
When Davis walked up to the bridge, the man’s head was down. Standing five feet behind him, Davis asked the man to come back over the ledge but the man didn’t want to.
The man turned his head a little and peered at Davis out of the corner of his eye. The white part of his eyes contrasted with his black attire.
“I remember the white in his eyes. His look did not make me comfortable,” Davis said. “He had that look that bothered me. He hadn’t made up his mind yet but he was strongly considering it.”
He didn’t say much. Only that he wanted to see his daughter.
“I want to hug my daughter,” the man said. “Can you bring my daughter here? I want to hug my daughter.”
Davis tried to let the man know that he had people who cared about him and ending his life wouldn’t be the solution to his problems.
“I’m not bringing her here,” Davis said. “You’re not going to hug your daughter unless you come on this side of the railing. If you sit on this side of the railing, then I’ll bring your daughter.”
For what was the longest 25 minutes of his life, Davis said, the two went back and forth. They talked about importance of family and life.
Finally, the man decided he would come back across the bridge railing. As he pulled one leg over the railing, Davis and another officer grabbed the man and pulled him over safely.
Davis looked at him. “You made the right choice,” Davis told the man.
Police brought the man’s daughter closer to the scene to be with her father. She wrapped her arms around him.
“It makes you feel good,” Davis said of seeing the man hug his daughter. “Hopefully if he needed some help, he got some help and things are better for him.”
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison watched from behind as Davis negotiated with the man.
“Sergeant Davis did a great job talking to the man and persuading him to come on the other side of the bridge and sit down,” Harrison said. “It puts a lot of stress on the officer to try to save a life.”
He said not every person is saved, but when they are it should be celebrated.
Davis deflected the credit from himself. He credited his police department as well as the Wake County Sheriff’s Office for saving the man.
“I’m no hero,” he said. “It was a team effort from all people involved. I don’t think we did anything we were not trained to do. We acted as police officers and negotiators and we did our job.”
Few in Garner
There are not many serious suicide threats in Garner, Davis said.
Davis has only had four crisis calls since joining the Crisis Negotiation team when it was formed in 2004. One person had killed himself before police responded, and the other two situations, prior to the Halloween incident, resulted in successful negotiations that prevented any harm.
However, none took as long as the 25-minute negotiation last month.
Davis doesn’t usually talk about work with his wife. But when he walked back to the car and closed the door on that Halloween night, he took a deep breath and gathered himself. He then sent a text to let his wife know what happened and that he was alright.
Davis said the man told officers his intentions were to fall asleep on the ledge and roll off in his sleep.
Two weeks later, Davis went back to that same spot, and thought about what could have happened if the man had fallen off the edge.
He looked over the ledge of the bridge for a few seconds and pointed his flash light at the boulders.
“That fall would not have been good,” he said.