For the second time in 10 weeks Orange County Sheriff deputies in Rancho Santa Margarita have grabbed a man and prevented him from jumping off a local bridge.
The latest incident took place Monday morning on Antonio Parkway near Canada Vista Park. With three deputies on one side of the suicidal 20-year-old, Dep. Felipe Martinez tackled him from behind and led the effort to pull him back onto the Tijeras Creek Bridge.
"It feels good," Martinez said. "That's what we're here to do, to serve the public. And when we're called to save people's lives, that's what we do."
For Martinez, who joined the force in 2005, it was his first such life-saving effort.
That's not the case with Dep. Mike Stout, who had a hand in on the Banderas Bridge on June 4.
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On Monday, Stout engaged the agitated man, who was yelling expletives at the deputies. The man and deputies had been on the bridge for about 20 minutes in a negotiation that included deputies Stout, Martinez, Dung Truong and Sgt. Mike Pixomatis. The last 10 minutes of the negotiation included the man's father, who called OCSD at 10:08 a.m. to report that his son had left their Rancho Santa Margarita home and threatened to jump off a bridge.
Patrol checks of the city's bridges turned up a man matching the description near the Tijeras Creek area. Deputies went into foot pursuit on southbound Antonio Parkway on the west side of the bridge; in an attempt to evade deputies, the man crossed all lanes of traffic to the east side of the bridge and stepped over the railing, his feet positioned on a narrow concrete ledge.
Stout, Truong and Pixomatis were about eight feet to the north of the man, with Martinez about eight feet to the south, according to Lt. Brian Schmutz, the city's chief of police services. The man's father arrived 10 minutes later, and the deputies inched their way to within about three feet. After 10 minutes of the father and son talking—but with the son refusing to listen and becoming increasingly agitated—Stout told the father to leave.
The despondent man took one foot off the ledge and held the railing with only one hand. He crouched, as if to jump. But while he was yelling at Stout, Martinez—who wrestled in high school—bolted for the man and embraced him in a bear hug from behind and pulled him back over the railing with assistance from Stout and Truong and tackled him to the ground.
The man, 5 feet 9 inches and 162 pounds, didn't receive any injuries though Martinez suffered abrasions to his right hand and knee.
"It looked like he was really going," said Martinez, who stands 6-2, 200 pounds. "Things just started getting too agitated. When the subject started arguing with Deputy Stout, I saw my opportunity."
Mayor Tony Beall said he was not surprised by the outcome, or its proximity to a similar incident that involved police heroism.
“Through the years our police force has developed a well-deserved reputation for excellence and commitment to our community, they’ve earned the trust of our residents, and this is just the latest example of this,” Beall said. “RSM is serviced by the bravest and best law enforcement has to offer. This is what they do. Our brave deputies have repeatedly shown they’re willing to risk their own lives to protect those they have sworn to serve.”