GIRARD - Authorities talked a 54-year-old city man off an overpass along Interstate 80 Tuesday afternoon after he threatened to jump off the bridge.
The tense situation began about 12:15 p.m. when an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper noticed the man had climbed over the outside of a protective fence surrounding the overpass along Mosier Road.
They began talking to Stephen West, 54, of Girard, to determine why he was on the bridge, according to a release from the Southington post of the Highway Patrol.
Traffic was stopped on the westbound lane of I-80 and along that portion of Mosier Road for more than an hour.
Neighbors who live close to the scene said the situation was tense as West hung along the fence with a long drop below him. West lives in a neighborhood in Girard close to the overpass, neighbors said.
"I don't know what brought it on," resident Matt Gibson said later in the day. "All I know is that when I got home, he was on the other side of the fence and sirens were going everywhere."
Gibson said he had returned home from running errands to find the bridge blocked off and several law enforcement agencies at the scene.
"Even the unmarked cars were up here," Gibson said. "I saw the cops talking to someone. They were up against the fence, but he was on the other side. If he would have let go of the fence, he would have fell."
Another neighbor who asked not to be named said he heard the man screaming at police.
"He was yelling at the top of his lungs," he said. "He was out close to the middle of the bridge."
According to the release, Gibson did get verbally abusive before walking to the middle of the bridge just over the westbound lane of the interstate.
At one point, police said, he became agitated and put a knife to his throat, refusing to come off the bridge.
A trooper, along with negotiators from the Mahoning Valley Crisis Response team continued negotiating with Gibson. Meanwhile, the Girard Fire Department positioned a ladder truck under the man along the interstate.
After nearly an hour of negotiations, Gibson was convinced by authorities to exit the bridge amicably.
At that point, troopers escorted him onto a ladder truck carriage and took him to St. Elizabeth Health Center for psychiatric evaluation.
There were no injuries to emergency medical personnel or Gibson, the patrol said.
Neighbors could hear authorities celebrating once the tragedy was averted.
"I heard everyone clapping and cheering once they got him in the bucket," one man said. "After they got him down, the guys were all high-fiving and hugging that they were able to get the guy."
Along with troopers, Girard fire and the crisis response team, also at the scene were the Girard Police Department, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Liberty Township Police Department.