Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Andrew Battenfield said the adrenaline just kicked in.
“You deal with what’s important at the moment. And getting ahold of him was all I could do,” he said.
Battenfield saved a suicidal man from serious injury or possibly even death Tuesday when he grabbed him as he was trying to jump off a freeway overpass, holding onto the man as tight as he could until help could arrive.
“You do not want to do this,” Battenfield yelled at the man as he tried to pull away from the trooper.
Fortunately, other motorists ran to the trooper’s assistance within a few seconds to help him pull the man to safety.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Battenfield said, while admitting, “I don’t know how much longer I could have held on to him.”
The harrowing series of events happened about 1:30 p.m. on I-15 near on the bridge that goes over 4500 South. Troopers started receiving reports of a man in his 30s looking over the 4500 south overpass. Battenfield said he rushed to the scene as quickly as he could, knowing there was a potential someone might be trying to jump.
“We kind of think someone is depressed or for whatever reason not having a good day,” he said of the type of call received by emergency dispatchers.
As Battenfield approached the area, he could see the man running around on the freeway. Investigators believe the man was trying to get hit by a vehicle. As soon as the man made eye contact with the trooper, he went over to the wall of the bridge and sat on it, straddling one leg on each side of the barrier.
At that moment, Battenfield turned off his emergency lights and siren and backed off. He said that prompted the man to come off the wall.
“I was hoping to get out of my car and talk to him first,” Battenfield said.
But the moment he got out of his patrol car, he said the man ran back to the wall. It was at that point Battenfield knew he had to act, and ran after him.
“By the time I catch him, he has one leg over the wall,” the UHP corporal recalled.
Battenfield wrapped his arms around the man’s torso under his armpits, just as the man got both legs over the wall. The only thing preventing the man from dropping 30 to 35 feet to the road below at that point was Battenfield, who was essentially gripping the man in a bear hug.
“And that’s about all I can do to keep him from him falling,” he said.
The man, who was facing Battenfield as he was being held, tried to convince the trooper to let him go. Battenfield said he could feel the man — who was about 6-feet tall and weighed approximately 190 to 215 pounds — start to slip out of the hoodie he was wearing.
“I thought it was 2 to 3 minutes I was holding on to him,” Battenfield said.
But when he went back to review his body camera video that recorded the incident, he said it was only a few seconds before three to four other motorists who had stopped came running toward the wall to help.
The good Samaritans reached over the wall, grabbed the man by his waistband and pulled him back over to the freeway. For the safety of the man and others, he was placed in handcuffs.
The man seemed depressed, Battenfield said. He apologized to the trooper for making him run. But the man then said he wished he had run faster to the wall and told Battenfield he should have just let him go.
“I encouraged him ‘That’s not what you want to do,’” Battenfield recalled. “There’s nothing in this world worth taking your life for.”
The man was taken to a local hospital where he was “pink sheeted,” or involuntarily admitted for a mental health evaluation.
“I have never had this type of experience,” Battenfield, an 11-year veteran of the Utah Highway Patrol, said recalling the incident. But he added, “Mentally I was prepared for a situation like this.” He credited the training troopers receive for readying him to react to the situation, in addition to talking to other troopers who have responded to similar situations.
Later, after the incident was over, a trooper who was standing on 4500 South under the freeway overpass while Battenfield was holding on to the man, sent a picture of the man’s shoes that had dropped to the ground. It caused Battenfield to pause and reflect on what might have been if not for his actions and the several bystanders who were willing to stop and help.