By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 20, 2008
A patient at George Washington University Hospital fell from a fifth-story ledge overlooking New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest Washington yesterday afternoon after threatening to jump for several hours, police said.
The man climbed onto the ledge about 12:15 p.m. and for four hours paced and peered at the ground. He fell just before 4:10 p.m. after trying to climb down. The man lost his footing as he tried to move down the building and briefly hung off the ledge by only his hands before falling feet first.
His body partially hit the concrete and a large inflatable air mattress police had set up while trying to coax him down, police said.
A crowd of about 20 people were horrified as they watched the scene unfold.
"When he fell, there was just a large gasp, like, 'Whoa,' " said Mike Adeniran, a 20-year-old junior at George Washington University.
The man, whose name was not immediately released by police, was still breathing at the scene, readmitted to the hospital and listed in critical condition, said Officer Josh Aldiva, a department spokesman.
The man had been taken to the hospital yesterday after being involved in a car accident.
During the standoff, police and ambulance crews cordoned off much of Washington Circle and several city blocks along New Hampshire Avenue and 23rd Street, between I Street and the circle, snarling traffic and preventing some residents from getting to their nearby homes and apartments.
Witnesses who saw the man climb onto the ledge said he was originally clad in a blue hospital-issued shirt and boxer shorts, with white bandages covering his arms.
By 1 p.m., the man had stripped off his shirt as a group of police, fire and security workers congregated on the rooftop several stories above him and SWAT teams surrounded the building below.
Marina Streznewski, who lives in the 900 block of New Hampshire Ave., a few blocks from where the man fell, said she came out of her home about 1 p.m. to see a gawking crowd snapping photos of the man with their cellphones.
"I looked at some of them, and I saw what was reflected in me -- I wanted to tell him, 'Please don't jump. It's not worth it,' " Streznewski said.