By Paul Tennant
---- — LAWRENCE — Speaking calmly and reassuringly, three police officers persuaded a 30-year-old woman who was threatening to kill herself to climb down from a construction crane yesterday morning.
Police Chief John Romero said the officers “absolutely” saved her life.
The woman was taken by Patriot Ambulance to Lawrence General Hospital, where she was treated for lacerations and given a psychological evaluation, police said.
Detective Carmen Purpora was flagged down at around 10:45 a.m. on Amesbury Street by a motorist who reported a woman was being attacked by a man with a knife at 32 Lawrence St., according to the detective’s report. Purpora called dispatch to request additional officers and headed for the scene.
Romero said police later learned that the woman was not being attacked, but that a man was trying to wrest a knife from her.
Purpora and Officer Angel Lopez were alerted by several people on Common Street behind 32 Lawrence St., including a man who said, “She’s trying to kill herself” and pointed toward an alley. Purpora and Lopez went to the alley and saw a woman standing on top of a crane with a bucket, 30 feet in the air, according to Purpora’s report.
The woman had a slash on her neck and lacerations on her arms and wrist, all of them bleeding, Purpora wrote. She was screaming, “I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to jump and kill myself, I want to die,” according to the detective’s report.
The woman put a scarf around her neck, started choking herself and yelled, “I want to end my life.”
Lopez and Purpora started talking calmly to the woman, urging her to climb down from the crane and accept help, according to the report. Sgt. Maurice Aguiler then joined the effort to convince the woman to get off the crane.
“After several minutes of coaxing we were able to calm (her) down and convince her to climb down the apparatus,” Purpora wrote. When officers talk to a person who is contemplating suicide, they often say, “This is not going to make it better” or a similar message.
Purpora, Lopez and Aguiler’s mission was not complete, however. As soon as the woman was on the ground, she ran head first into a brick wall, yelling, “I want to die!” Officers continued to talk to the woman and assure her that help was on the way, Purpora wrote.
They monitored her until the Patriot Ambulance arrived. Romero pointed out that learning how to talk to people suffering from emotional difficulties is part of a police officer’s training.
“Most of our time is spent helping people,” the chief noted, adding that arresting criminal suspects is a relatively small part of the job. Purpora, Lopez and Aguiler did “an absolutely fantastic job” in persuading the woman not to end her life, he said.
“We have three bridges in Lawrence,” Romero said. Over the years, he said, his officers have talked numerous people out of jumping from them – or grabbed them before they did so.
Romero said he and other members of the Police Department hope the young woman gets the help she needs and overcomes her challenges.
Asked what people should do if they become aware of someone who appears to be in danger of committing suicide, he said, “Call 911 immediately.”