Maryland State Police closed all but one of the eastbound lanes on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge shortly before the Washington Redskins game yesterday while they responded to a man threatening to jump from the span, delaying thousands of drivers, including some fans bound for FedEx Field.
The lanes remained shut for an hour before the man, who was identified by Police as Carlton Micarlio Strange, 30, of Lexington, Va., was apprehended. Before he was coaxed away from the edge of the span, however, traffic had backed up several miles along the Capital Beltway in Virginia, evoking bitter memories of the massive rush-hour tie-ups in November 1998, when the Wilson Bridge was closed for nearly six hours because of a similar suicide threat.
Yesterday's standoff began shortly after 3 p.m., when a motorist called police to report the would-be jumper, who had tied two cinder blocks to a rope around his neck and straddled the wall on the bridge's edge.
Had the incident happened an hour earlier, it could have severely disrupted travel for tens of thousands of fans traveling to FedEx Field before the 4:05 p.m. kickoff. But authorities reported that by 3 p.m., most fans already had arrived at the stadium and that parking lots were at least 95 percent full.
"Nobody was delayed by the bridge incident except for a few stragglers," said Lt. Ed Burke, commander of special events for Prince George's County police.
Redskins spokesman John Maroon said the team had no estimate of how many fans arrived late because of the incident, but he dismissed reports that as many as 10,000 spectators had missed part of the game. Several parking attendants and shuttle-bus drivers at the stadium said they did not notice an unusually large number of fans arriving late.
One of the latecomers, Ron Cipressi, of Alexandria, said that what should have been a 20-minute trip turned into an hour-long ordeal that caused him to miss the first quarter of the game.
"It's ridiculous," Cipressi said, out of breath, as he sprinted toward one of the gates. He admitted that he got a late start for the stadium because he had lingered at home to watch the end of the Tennessee-Buffalo game on television. "I didn't expect there to be much traffic because the game had already started," he said.
Gina McDowell, of Woodbridge, also was stymied by the gridlock at the bridge. "I'm annoyed, and I'm late," she said, hustling up the stadium steps.
Maryland State Police, who handled the incident because it happened on the eastern end of the bridge, said they closed two of three eastbound lanes before apprehending the suspect, who they described as "incoherent." Cpl. John Green said the man was sent to Prince George's Hospital Center for emergency evaluation.
Staff writers Victoria Benning, Hamil R. Harris and Martin Weil contributed to this report.