NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The upper level of the George Washington Bridge was brought to a standstill Friday morning as police rescued an apparent would-be jumper, who was allegedly armed with a pellet gun.
Traffic was stopped on the bridge just after 10 a.m. Friday as police mobilized to rescue Douglas Peck, 37, of Edgewater, New Jersey, police said.
“At 10:15 we received information that he may be near the bridge, and that he was going to try to harm himself,” Port Authority Police Superintendent Michael Fedorko said. “We stopped traffic at 10:15 because there was a report that he had a weapon.”
Traffic cameras on the bridge and photos from stuck motorists showed Peck standing on the railing, allegedly threatening to jump off the bridge.
Chopper 2 captured video of the distraught man hanging off the pedestrian path on the south side of the upper level with Port Authority and NYPD rescue units worked to talk him back over the rail, CBS2’s Emily Smith reported.
It was a tense hour as officers tried to negotiated with Peck.
Port Authority Police Officer Robert Wallace was the first to approach Peck, who was standing on the pedestrian walkway with his hand in his pocket.
“I said, ‘Sir, I have no problem talking to you, I want to make sure you’re OK, I need you to take your hands out of your pockets.’ And as he did that he pointed the weapon at me,” Wallace said. “I took cover immediately and drew my weapon.”
Wallace said in training he learned to find a safe place, so he hid behind a cable. By that time, other police officers pulled out their guns, and ordered him to drop the weapon.
Eventually police inched closer to Peck, and he turned over his weapon, which officers said looked exactly like a Beretta.
But video showed him twist out of the arms of officers and continue to resist rescue.
Officer Javier Cerna, with the Emergency Services Unit, said the man made statements implying he wanted to be shot by police.
“I believe that was his intention, for us to shoot him to end his life,” Cerna said. “He definitely wanted to die.”
Cerna was eventually able to pull Peck to safety after he asked for a cigarette.
“We spoke and he asked for a cigarette,” Cerna said. “I got close to him, he grabbed the cigarette, I grabbed him.”
Peck was taken into police custody and is now being evaluated at Bergen Hospital. He was arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon and aggravated assault of a police officer, Fedorko said.
It turned out the gun was a starter pistol — something that still could have caused serious harm.
“Once the weapon came out, I’m making sure I am trying to go home tonight. Training kicked in, I took cover,” Wallace said.
The incident brought traffic to a complete halt.
One woman, named Martha, told 1010 WINS she was on her way out of town for a wedding when she got stuck on the bridge for about 30 minutes.
“We were just wondering what was going on because it was just general New York traffic and then it came to a total stop,” she said. “There was a lot of police cars, there’s a couple of helicopters.”
Westbound lanes reopened at 11 a.m. and eastbound lanes into the city followed 20 minutes later.