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Man taken to UNMH after standoff

APD officers have eastbound I-40 closed at San Mateo. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/ Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Around 1 a.m. Monday, Albuquerque police officers wrapped up a 13-hour standoff over Interstate 40, when they eventually convinced a suicidal man not to jump off the Louisiana overpass.

They say the man told them he had stopped taking his medication and he raved about being framed for murder and a microphone that he believed was implanted in his neck.

Officer Simon Drobik, an APD spokesman, said the man was eventually taken to the University of New Mexico Psychiatric Center. He has not been publicly identified.

Drobik said around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, police received a call stating “my friend is in crisis and needs help” in the area. They soon found a man had climbed on to the overpass where Louisiana crosses I-40 and was clinging to the fence with about 2 inches of concrete under his shoes.

At that point, Drobik said, the officers decided to close the eastbound interstate lanes, worried that if the man jumped he could be a danger to passing motorists as well as himself. The lanes remained closed for the rest of the day while officer Drobik, Sgt. Steve Lowell and Lt. John Gonzalez — who have all been trained in crisis intervention techniques — tried to get him off the ledge.

“There are no magic words to get someone off a bridge,” Drobik said. “It’s all about keeping him safe in the moment.”

Drobik said as the officers were working to build trust with the man, the situation was complicated by drivers who would yell out the window for him to jump.

“He’s already hearing someone tell him in his head to jump and people are physically telling him to jump as they go by,” he said. “I saw a dad with his kids in the car do it. It was totally revolting.”

New Mexico State Police and the Albuquerque Fire Department assisted with traffic control and rescue efforts, and eight APD officers helped direct traffic as vehicles were diverted off the highway at Carlisle and back on at Louisiana.

Meanwhile, the officers on the bridge gave the man water, offered him pizza, and cut a hole in the fence for him. Eventually, Drobik said, the man climbed through to safety.

He is not facing any charges.

“The mental health issues and crisis of him attempting suicide overshadow a minor criminal trespass charge,” he said. “We’re looking at human life more than charges and the human part is getting that guy help.”

The “unprecedented” length of time for the negotiations caused frustration from drivers as the interstate was closed down for much of the day. Around 9 p.m., in an unrelated incident, westbound I-40 was shut down at Eubank for a fatal rollover crash.

“If that was someone you loved how long would you want us up on that bridge?” Drobik said.