Team effort by police translates to success in rescue at City Hall

By Maria Cramer and Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / October 10, 2009

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The middle-aged man sat on the ledge of the eighth-floor balcony at Boston City Hall, threatening to jump if he did not get to speak to Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“Yo quiero ver a Menino,’’ he yelled over and again. “I want to see Menino.’’

The standoff with the distraught man produced some tense moments and a lightning quick response from police, shattering the calm of a sleepy afternoon at City Hall yesterday.

As workers gathered on nearby balconies to watch, a dozen police and firefighters worked feverishly to calm the man and bring him to safety. One officer spoke to him in Spanish, asking him his name, while others urged him to relax. Meanwhile, on the brick courtyard below, firefighters inflated a giant air bag in case the man jumped or fell backward off the ledge.

“The man was very upset,’’ said Sergeant John Donovan of Boston Municipal Protective Services. “I don’t know whether it was medical or emotional, but he was very agitated.’’

Officer Frank Colon, also of Boston Municipal Protective Services, translated pleas from police officers.

“We’re here to help,’’ he said, according to Boston police Lieutenant Paul Barry O’Connor. “Please, you have to understand, we’re here to help you.’’

Finally, when the officers asked the man his name, he reached into a plastic bag and threw a plastic pill bottle in their direction, apparently, they said, because the label had his name on it. As Colon drew the man’s attention by reaching down to pick up the bottle, two Boston police officers, Bernie Hicks and Evon Burroughs, crept up from behind him and tackled him.

“We had luck on our side and God on our side, and we were able to get the man down,’’ O’Connor said.

Boston emergency medical technicians transported the man to Massachusetts General Hospital. Police did not release his name.

Asked if he considered calling Menino to the scene, O’Connor said officers usually try other tactics to defuse situations before bringing in a third party. Sometimes, bringing in whomever the suicidal person is asking for can make things worse, he said. In any case, Menino was then at the Howard Johnson Inn near Fenway Park, celebrating the hotel’s 50th anniversary.

O’Connor and Donovan said the rescue was a team effort, but singled out Colon for praise, saying he had built a rapport with the distraught man that helped avoid a tragedy.

“He stepped up big-time, so I let him go early,’’ Donovan said. “Tomorrow’s another day.’’

Maria Cramer can be reached at