Several Oakland residents came to the aid of a suicidal man Thursday afternoon by tying a rope around him, holding on to and talking to the distraught man as he perched on a narrow freeway ledge high above Interstate 580, threatening to jump.

Police and fire crews brought the man to safety about 40 minutes after the incident began at 1:40 p.m. Thursday. No one was injured.

"The only thing in my mind was making sure he didn't kill himself," said Lonnie Monroe, a 54-year-old self-employed landscaper who was walking home from work when he spotted the suicidal man walking on the outside, narrow ledge of the Ardley Avenue freeway overpass. Monroe was walking on the sidewalk on the other side of a 6-foot-high metal fence the suicidal man had slipped past.

"Something in his face told me something was wrong,'' said Monroe, who was thanked by police for his heroic efforts.

Monroe said he was headed home, pushing his shopping cart full of gardening tools on Ardley Avenue, just west of the Fruitvale Avenue onramp, when he spotted the man and went to his aid.

"He didn't want to be alive anymore. He wanted to die," Monroe said.

Monroe said he walked on the sidewalk parallel to the man about 170 feet until the suicidal man climbed onto the green-and-white 14th Avenue freeway sign and sat down, legs dangling. The California Highway Patrol had stopped traffic below, and dozens gathered on the overpass to watch the drama unfold.


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"He was upset. It had to do with his family," said Monroe, who was one of several men who secured the man with a rope and were holding onto him through the fence.

He was able to relate to the distraught man. "I shared with him what I had gone through recently," said Monroe, whose mother died recently and whose 24-year-old stepson was killed in a freak accident last fall when a tree branch fell on him in the Fruitvale district.

As the two men continued to talk, police and fire crews on the ground planned their next move.

Firefighters drove a ladder truck onto the freeway. An Oakland schools police sergeant and an officer climbed the ladder and the sergeant secured the man with handcuffs and held on to him.

By 2:15 p.m., the ladder was lowered to the pavement and the man was put on a gurney and taken away by ambulance to an area hospital on a psychiatric hold.

The man's name, age and city of residence were not released.

Monroe didn't consider himself a hero.

"It was the right thing to do. It was the honorable and worthy thing to do. For a young man to walk out there and try and take his life and for me to just walk by would not have been honorable. He never said anything to anybody except me," Monroe said.

All westbound lanes of Interstate 580, about a quarter mile east of the 14th Avenue offramp were closed as police talked to the potential jumper. Three of the four eastbound I-580 lanes were also closed. All lanes are open now.

Traffic, which was backed up for miles, is moving again.