Edinburg police assist a climber, center, down off a crane tower at the Hidalgo County Courthouse after he climbed up it on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

BY MATT WILSON
STAFF WRITER

EDINBURG — A man threatening to jump from a crane at the Hidalgo County Courthouse job site at 100 N. Closner Blvd. was safely escorted down by local police officers last Wednesday evening.

Officer Trisha Wattigny with the department said the individual, an 18-year-old male, dialed 9-1-1 at 8:24 p.m. Nov. 13 after climbing to the top of the crane.

“He was planning on jumping — suicidal. Although when he got there he had second thoughts, called 9-1-1, said he was going to jump,” Wattigny said.

According to Wattigny, the department then sent officers to the location and contacted the Edinburg Fire Department and Morganti Construction.

“The first officer on the scene couldn’t find him and the gentleman flashed his flashlight at us to show where he was at,” she said.

Police informed the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office due to the incident occurring in their jurisdiction.

Maurice Alleyne, a mental health officer with Edinburg police, put on a harness and began climbing the crane. Officers Carlos Ortiz and Sgt. Manuel Alvarez climbed the crane unharnessed to assist.

“Luckily, 9-1-1 dispatchers were able to keep him on the line while we had our negotiators,” Wattigny said. “We just saw him pacing back and forth while they were making their way up the ladder.”

Wattigny said the man was walking on the counter weight side of the beam behind the cockpit of the 230-foot crane, occasionally dangling his leg over the safety railing on top.

When officers reached the top they were able to convince the man to come down, and they descended from the crane safely at about 9:30 p.m., according to police.

“He came down voluntarily, there was no force. EMS is on scene, so they’re going to take him for treatment,” Wattigny said.

Wattigny says there didn’t appear to be any signs that the individual broke through any gates to enter the site.

“Right around where that crane is there’s just chain-link fences, hurricane chain-link fences there. It looks like they could be pushed open,” she said. “The whole job site, you could just kind of climb over.”

According to Wattigny, if the individual had fallen, the county would have conducted the suicide report.

Edinburg PD spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez says the county took over the incident after the man was escorted down and that Morganti arrived at the location to prevent any future unauthorized entry to the site.

The following day, however, Morganti, the general contractor in charge of the project, declined to respond to repeated requests for comment on the incident.

Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra said that though the location is under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office, construction at the site is the responsibility of the general contractor. ““The site is currently in their custody,” he said. “I know that my staff has reached out and advised them to consider hiring security officers or peace officers at the location,” Guerra said.

Construction at the courthouse remained ongoing and it’s unclear whether any additional security has been added to the location.

Juan Rodriguez, a representative for the U.S. Labor Department, said Thursday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not investigating the incident.

“Their jurisdiction is limited to workers,” he said.

The sheriff, via a statement, also commended the quick response of first responders on the scene.

“We would like to recognize Edinburg Police Chief Cesar Torres and his officers on the rapid response and efforts in bringing this situation to a safe conclusion,” the statement reads. “HCSO would also like to inform our community that going into construction sites is not only dangerous but it is against the law. Violators can be charged with criminal trespass which is a class B misdemeanor punishable by a $2000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.”

As for the 18-year-old man involved in last week’s incident, he is facing a charge of criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor.