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Suicide Attempt Stopped with Burger

By • Nov 19th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

Police in Portsmouth, New Hampshire have saved a man’s life by offering him a hamburger.

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Around 2 a.m. on November 19, Officer Scott Pearl and Detective Tim Black responded to a call regarding a man who had climbed to the top of the Interstate 95 bridge over the Piscataqua River, which serves as the border between Maine and New Hampshire.  They found an unidentified male atop the high-level bridge.  Traffic was stopped, and a Coast Guard boat was put on stand-by in the water below.

“He was on the highest piece of the structure where there are no railings or safety nets,” Pearl told Elizabeth Dinan of Seacoast Online.  (File photos from her article are below.  Pearl is the one with the police K-9 “Wess.”  It is not known whether Wess was on duty at the time of the incident.)

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The man had apparently left a suicide note at police headquarters 30 minutes earlier, prompting authorities to put out an alert for his vehicle.  At the bridge, Pearl and Black recognized the abandoned vehicle as belonging to someone they were familiar with.  Black even knew that the man had recently lost his job, was having marital problems, and had been sleeping in his truck.

The officers began a dialogue with the suicidal man, talking with him through the early-morning hours and almost until dawn.  On a night when the temperatures had dropped to 28 degrees, the officers ultimately appealed to the would-be jumper with an offer he could warm up to.

Community Affairs Captain Mike Schwartz told Charles McMahon of Foster’s Daily Democrat, “They talked to him about coming down to eat a hamburger.  It was pretty cold and miserable at the time, and he seemed to appeal to that.”

“I offered him someplace warm and a bite to eat and someone to listen,” said Black.

As the man made his way down, officers moved back so “he didn’t feel like he was confronted,” according to Pearl.  Black added, “It was pretty emotional for him, as well as a breath of fresh air for us to see his feet on the ground.”

In the Hollywood version of the story, this is the moment when the cops slap cuffs on the man and haul him downtown, charge him with a public nuisance or trespassing rap, and send him for psychiatric evaluations while the duo rides off, trading snappy wisecracks en route to their next adventure.

Instead, Pearl and Black made good on their offer and ponied up for burgers from the Buck Horn Family Restaurant, attached to the TA TravelCenter at Exit 3 on I-95.

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(Sidebar: I know that I’m spoiled, living in a big city.  I sometimes take for granted that I can get my cheeseburger fix any time day or night at any one of a dozen different establishments.  But is a truck stop really the only place to grab a ‘burg at 5:30 a.m. in Greenland, New Hampshire?!?  Yikes.)

Back at the station, the three men ate and talked.  “Eating and spending time with him really helped him relax,” reported Pearl.  Still, said Black, “We told him we’re not psychologists.  We convinced him to go to the emergency room for some help.”  And no charges are expected to be filed.

To protect and serve, indeed.

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