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Cops Prevent Man From Jumping Off Bridge

Depressed over family matters, a 22-year-old man was standing on the railing considering a leap to his death.

Orange County Sheriff Deputies have come under fire the past couple of months, but two weeks ago local deputies prevented an almost certain fatality in Rancho Santa Margarita.

With lights and sirens blazing, deputies Maria Bowman and Richard Oates responded to a report of a man standing on the railing of the Santa Margarita Parkway Bridge on March 30.

Bowman and Oates arrived at 11:25 p.m., two minutes after the call went out, and made contact with a 22-year-old man.

The young adult said he was depressed over family matters and was thinking of jumping off the bridge.

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However, under the calm influence of Bowman and Oates, the troubled man got down from the railing, about 100 yards from Alicia on the east side of the bridge. He was taken into protective custody to be evaluated by mental health professionals.

This is at least the second time in the past year that deputies have prevented someone from jumping off the bridge. An incident was previously averted on April 26, 2010.

"The bridge incidents are another example of how difficult the job of police officer can be sometimes," said Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services. "It’s a position that requires you to be a marriage counselor, a crisis counselor, a medical aid responder, a mentor and a guardian of the community all in one. Going into these incidents with little or no background on the person you’re talking to requires strong communication skills and a lot of patience and empathy. This incident, just like many others we’ve had, showcases what great men and women we have working in the city of Rancho Santa Margarita.

"Our deputies handled more than 11,000 calls for service and resident contacts last year, and I’m very proud of the quality of service."

The bridge, which rises about 70 feet over O'Neill Regional Park and spans Trabuco Creek, has been the site of six deaths in the past, two accidental and four suicides. The first occurred in November, 2005 when a woman trying to retrieve an item that flew out of her car hopped the interior railing thinking there was a median between the east and west spans; there is not. The last was Aug. 4, 2010, the second suicide in a four-month period.

A 21-year-old man jumped off the bridge on June 12, 2011, but survived .

vince April 14, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Lt. Brian Schmutz, chief of police services said, "It’s a position that requires you to be a marriage counselor, a crisis counselor, a medical aid responder, a mentor and a guardian of the community all in one. Kudos to the responding officers ! A job well done, I want the local officers that watch over my community, my family and my well being, well trained and able to respond in all types of situations. It is comforting and very important that we not lose site of these higher standards as a community and continue to demand this level of conduct from all Law enforcement officers. thanks again, deputies Maria Bowman and Richard Oates
Karen April 14, 2012 at 04:36 PM
In articles previously reported on the OC Sheriff Deputies, people are so quick to criticize and play Monday morning quarterback. But here showing what a great service to our communities, no comments. Wonder what that says about our society?Job well done deputies Bowman and Oates. Thanks for your service!
Janet Whitcomb April 14, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Kudos to Deputies Maria Bowman and Richard Oates for their bravery, empathy, and tact in preventing another tragedy. Like a lot of us, I drive over this bridge almost daily, and there's hardly a time when I don't think about the people who've deliberately or accidentally lost their lives at this site. I happen to know someone who worked in Rancho in a county services capacity. One afternoon he was on his way back from a meeting, driving across the bridge, when he saw a young woman standing next to her bicycle and gazing down at the arroyo. Minutes later he learned she had jumped. Rescue workers were called and arrived to find her just barely alive; despite their attempts to save her, she died. Then he told me that although more than a year had passed, it continued to haunt his thoughts and that he reproached himself for not realizing what she was about to do. Of course I told him that no one can be a mind reader; that many walkers, joggers, and bikers pause as they cross the bridge to look down and across the arroyo. But I certainly can understand why the situation remained in his thoughts. Again, many thanks to Deputies Bowman and Oates for being able to talk the young man out of harming himself. And let’s hope he receives the help and support necessary so that he may live out a long and full life.
April Josephson April 14, 2012 at 11:19 PM
It's not often that individuals can be saved when they have such intentions. As has been expressed by the others, it is nice to know that we have Deputies in RSM who were able to do this. Thank you!

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