Police officers have many tools at their disposal: weapons, handcuffs, chemical sprays. And occasionally a cigarette.
A Duluth officer relied on a cigarette to get him close enough to yank a suicidal man from the ledge at the top of the six-level parking ramp at the downtown Holiday Inn.
Officer Joe DeJesus’ brief and intense encounter was captured on his body camera and posted last week on Facebook by Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
“This is an example of the lifesaving work our officers do every day,” Ramsey wrote under the video. “The male was taken in for help and was uninjured thanks to the excellent work by Officer DeJesus.”
The video shows DeJesus getting out of his squad car and walking toward the man, who is sitting on the ledge in his stocking feet, one leg on the ramp side and the other tucked in front of him.
“What’s going on, man?” the officers starts. “Can I talk to ya for a minute? … I’m not here to jam you up. I’m here to help ya.”
The man said little at the outset but eventually mentioned there was “no point going on with life.”
He then talked about someone wanting to kill him.
“You wanna smoke?” DeJesus, remaining several paces away from the man, asked. “I’ve got a smoke, all right. Well, you just sit tight where you’re at for a minute, and I’ll get you one, yeah? Do you have a lighter?”
DeJesus returned to his squad car for the cigarette. Just as he’s about to hand it to the man, the officer got a grip on the subject in a flash and pulled him to the pavement.
Total time from arriving on the scene until the man was off the ledge: 2 minutes, 51 seconds.
DeJesus doesn’t smoke, but like many officers, “keeps a pack of cigarettes in his squad in case someone asks for one,” said Police Lt. Nick Lukovsky, who works in training and development for the department.
It’s “an old tactic to gain trust, compliance, create a relationship, calm people down,” Lukovsky said.
The lieutenant described DeJesus as one of the force’s “more veteran officers … who has some foresight, ‘if I do this it could go bad.’ Thank God this didn’t go badly.”
Lukovsky said he was stepping in to speak about this incident on behalf of DeJesus, who declined to be interviewed.
“He’s one of those I’m-just-doing-my-job guys,” the lieutenant said.