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Update: Officers get suspected jumper off Highway 99 bridge in Modesto

Man threatens to jump onto Highway 99 in Modesto stops, traffic for hours

Negotiators convince man to climb down from a fence he straddled on the Woodland Avenue bridge over Highway 99 in Modesto, Calif.
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Negotiators convince man to climb down from a fence he straddled on the Woodland Avenue bridge over Highway 99 in Modesto, Calif.

A man threatening to jump off an overpass stopped traffic in both directions on Highway 99 for about two hours Friday afternoon in Modesto, before authorities were able to end the situation peacefully.

According to the California Highway Patrol, calls first came in at 12:46 p.m. about a male subject who was trying to jump off the Woodland Avenue bridge over the freeway. Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Letras said officers responded to reports of a man hanging from the edge of the fencing on the overpass. When deputies arrived, they found the man making suicidal statements.

Letras said the highway had to be shut down in both directions because of the man’s location in the middle of the overpass. Sheriff’s department negotiators were brought on scene to talk with the man. At times, he was seen sitting on top of the fencing, straddling both sides with his legs.

At around 3:30 p.m., Letras said, negotiators were able to convince the man to come down off the fence and walk off the bridge, where deputies were ready to take him into custody. Letras said the man, who was identified by CHP as a 39-year-old from Modesto, began to resist, and a Taser was deployed to subdue him.

An ambulance was on scene and he was given treatment immediately afterward. Letras said he did not suffer any serious injuries.

“It appears there could be some mental illness issues with him, at this point, that were an impediment to the negotiations to get him to come down off of the freeway,” Letras said. “Ultimately, we are pleased he was able to come down and we were able to peacefully put an end to this with no injuries.”

The incident stopped northbound and southbound traffic at Woodland Avenue for about two hours. The stoppage triggered a handful of small vehicle accidents along the northbound lanes as traffic backed up throughout the area. Traffic on surface streets in the area were also snarled.

According to the CHP call logs, some desperate drivers even cut through chain link fencing between Woodland and Kansas avenues to make their own exits off the freeway. Other drivers resorted to driving the wrong way on roads and ramps to avoid the stoppage.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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