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Police stop man attempting to jump off I-95 bridge

Law enforcement members from multiple departments take a man into custody who threatened to jump off the Rappahannock Falls Bridge on northbound I-95 in Fredericksburg, VA on Friday, April 13, 2012. (Peter Cihelka/The Free Lance-Star)


A distraught man who threatened to jump from the Interstate 95 bridge over the Rappahannock River on Friday afternoon held police, and drivers, at bay for more than two hours.

He didn’t jump.

Instead, a Stafford County Sheriff’s Office negotiator tasered the man as he leaned away from the edge of the bridge, bringing the incident to an end just after 5 p.m.

Stafford Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy said the man was taken to a mental health facility, “which is real good news.”

Virginia State Police Sgt. Les Tyler said the man is 53 years old and lives in Northern Virginia.

Police are not releasing the man’s name, and they wouldn’t say what led him to threaten to jump from the span that carries the northbound lanes of I–95 high over a whitewater section of the Rappahannock just upstream of Fredericksburg.

The incident started just before 3 p.m. when the man stopped his SUV on the bridge. He took a rope, secured one end to his vehicle, put the other end around his neck, and sat on the concrete rail.

The right lane and shoulder were soon closed, and police negotiators began talking with the man. Fire and rescue personnel waited next to the river in case the man jumped.

The man spent much of the next two hours with one leg dangling over the bridge as negotiators tried to talk him off the rail.

At times, the man gestured angrily with his arms and could be heard cursing. He also warned the negotiators to back off several times.

Traffic in the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 move slowly towards the Rappahannock River Bridge. (Robert A. Martin/The Free Lance-Star)

While this was going on, Fredericksburg-area roads started to clog.

Northbound I–95 traffic backed up 12 miles to Thornburg, according to Kelly Hannon, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

Southbound I–95 wasn’t affected by the incident but as usual was congested by Friday afternoon traffic.

Other roads, such as U.S. 17 and U.S. 1 through Fredericksburg, became seriously clogged with traffic avoiding the interstate.

Northbound U.S. 1 was backed up from the Falmouth intersection to beyond the University of Mary Washington.

To make matters worse, the congestion led to several minor crashes on the interstate, U.S. 1 and State Route 3, said Hannon and Fredericksburg Police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe.

“That exacerbated the whole situation,” Bledsoe said.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436