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Police talk man down from 260-foot crane at Northeast Georgia Medical Center

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Two police negotiators were able to talk a potentially suicidal man down from atop a 260-foot construction crane Thursday night at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Gainesville police Lt. Nina Harkins said the man, identified as 39-year-old Robert Wright of Martin, climbed up the crane sometime before 6:36 p.m. Thursday, when police were called to the scene. The crane is located at an area of new construction at the hospital.

A pair of Gainesville police negotiators used a bullhorn to talk to Wright, spending about an a hour and a half trying to persuade him to come down. Shortly after 8 p.m., Wright climbed down from the crane. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment, police said.

Sgt. Johnny Ray said no crowd control was needed.

The outcome was far better, and quicker, than similar episodes in metro Atlanta during the past decade.

In 2005, a murder suspect climbed a construction crane in Buckhead and held police at bay for 56 hours before an officer used a Taser to subdue him and bring him down safely.

In 2001, a mentally disturbed man used a gun to commandeer a 200-foot crane near the Gold Club strip club and communicated sporadically with negotiators via cell phone for nearly 24 hours before hanging himself from the crane.

Gainesville police Chief Frank Hooper credited the two officers involved in Thursday’s negotiations with bringing about a relatively quick, and safe, resolution.

It was the second time in two weeks Gainesville police have talked a man out of suicide. On Jan. 28, negotiators spent two hours talking over the phone with a man at the Ramada Inn who threatened to kill himself in his room with a .38-caliber handgun before he surrendered peacefully to police.

"I think our guys do a good job," Hooper said. "They exercise patience, and patience is one of the things you need to utilize. Time is in your favor."



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