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Detective on his way to work helps rescue man from overpass: 'Timing is everything'

"Timing is everything," Lt. Scott McKee said in statement. "And this morning that timing brought a Springfield Police Department Crisis Negotiator to the right place at just the right time." (Still from SPD video)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - As Matt Neiwert drove to work Thursday morning, he spotted a man on the wrong side of a protective fence - with Highway 126 nearly 30 feet below.

Other motorists had seen the man and called police.

But Neiwert wasn't like the other motorists:

He works for the Springfield Police Department.

"Timing is everything," Lt. Scott McKee said in statement. "And this morning that timing brought a Springfield Police Department Crisis Negotiator to the right place at just the right time."

Neiwert spent 45 minutes talking to the man who "appears to have deliberately climbed over and clung to the outer protective fence as he moved laterally via a narrow ledge out to the center of the roadway over speeding traffic below," McKee wrote. "Neiwert was able to encourage the man, who had kicked his shoes off and stood barefoot on the narrow wet concrete ledge to move toward safety."

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed the highway as Neiwert and other officers spoke to the man.

Meanwhile, Springfield High School staff and Physical Education students loaded "a pole-vault pit onto a flatbed tow-truck as a backup safety plan as emergency responders awaited high-angle rescue equipment," McKee said. “As it turned out, we didn’t need it, but it was great to hear these Springfield kids did all that trying to help."

Instead, police got close enough to get ahold of the man.

The officers "were able to pull his hooded sweatshirt, backpack straps and belt through the cyclone fence from various locations about his upper torso and pull him against the fence to relative security as Eugene Springfield Fire personnel worked with police to cut access points through the fencing in order to pass ropes around" the man, "who wavered between being cooperative with rescue and attempts to escape and jump," McKee wrote.

"Using the ropes to secure him in place and zip-ties to anchor his hands to the fence, a dozen police and firefighters grappled with securing the man, and eventually administering a sedative as crews maneuvered Fire apparatus below and raised a bucket to the opposite side of the fence to accomplish the eventual rescue."

Police took the man into custody on a possible charge of Second Degree Disorderly Conduct for a 2-hour disruption to busy traffic.

But first they took him in for a mental health evaluation, which was where the man had started the day: a hospital bracelet indicated the man had gone to a hospital but then walked away without speaking with mental health crisis personnel.

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