NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A crisis negotiator with the Metro Nashville Police Department detailed the moment he persuaded a man to come down from a sign over Interstate 65 last week.
William Walters was sentenced to 20 days in jail following the Jan. 5 incident after he was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing a roadway. The 46-year-old has already served 5 of those days.
It took hours before Walters agreed to come back down, causing the interstate to come to a standstill at Rosa L. Parks Blvd. near downtown Nashville.
He came down after Officer Cedric Connolly spoke to him and persuaded him it was the right thing to do.
“I was like, I got to crawl this ladder. ‘OK, here I go,” Officer Connolly recalled, describing what it was like being the primary communicator.
Connolly said he had to climb more than 20 feet to try and convince Walters to come down.
“It was a little scary climbing up that ladder, I’ll admit,” said Connolly.
“I went up and I said, ‘Hey my name is Cedric. I’m here to help you. What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘Look, I’m a little scared of heights. Why don’t we go down to the ground and talk about this?’ But that didn’t work,” he explained.
Officer Connolly said Walters didn’t say much at first, but he wasn’t giving up. His goal was to connect with Walters and it eventually worked.
“He said that people everywhere, they were talking about him. He said helicopters were following him and he was scared. I told him we could get him to a hospital to get him some help and he didn’t want to go because he was afraid that the people at the hospital would kill him,” Officer Connolly described.
After two hours, the officer ultimately earned Walters’ trust.
“He says, ‘If I come down, do you have to handcuff me? and I said, ‘If you come down with me right now,’ I said, ‘I won’t handcuff you,’ and he said, ‘You promise?’ and I said, ‘I promise. I am not going to. We just want you to get down,’ and he said OK.”
Connolly said the fire department then moved their ladder bucket over to where they could climb in.
Once they were both to safety, the crisis negotiator says Walters “immediately just broke down sobbing” and repeatedly said he was sorry.
“It was a sense of relief that we were getting him down safe,” Connolly told News 2. “ I felt really good at the end of the day I did what I was trained to do.”
Walters was transported to a local hospital for a mental observation. He was not physically injured.
“Hopefully he’ll go through the right channels. He’ll get the help that he needs and hopefully this won’t happen again,” said Officer Connolly.