Man Leaps From Luau

A unidentified 53-year-old man was in guarded condition Monday at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown after jumping from a fifth-floor balcony Sunday at the Luau Manor Apartments in Wheeling.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said several police and fire department units responded to a 10 a.m. call regarding a man threatening to jump off the balcony at the 2230 Chapline St. apartment building.

“We had several patrol units, our newly-formed crisis negotiation team, SWAT resources and Wheeling Fire Department first responders on the scene,” he said.

Schwertfeger said conditions escalated when responders learned the man had barricaded his apartment door.

“We brought in our new bomb detection dog and evacuated residents from the fourth, fifth and sixth floors,” he said. “The evacuation lasted for 30-45 minutes.”

Schwertfeger said responders worked out of a command post set up in the building’s laundry room.

“We had communication with the subject,” he said. “At one point, we provided him with food.”

According to Schwertfeger, the subject had a 12-inch knife and threatened to harm himself.

“He asked to talk to one of our officers with whom he had had previous contact,” he said. “The off-duty officer reported to the scene but was unable to talk the subject down.”

The stand-off ended about an hour and 15 minutes after it started when the subject drew the knife and stepped off of the balcony in an apparent suicide attempt. Emergency personnel examined the man at the scene and then called for him to be life-flighted to Morgantown.

“He is obviously suffering from significant mental illness,” Schwertfeger said. “I am thankful that he is still alive.”

He applauded the efforts of all units on the scene and made special mention of the off-duty officers who came out to help.

“I was there,” he said. “I am impressed by the efforts made by one of our off-duty officers who responded to a citizen in distress.”

Schwertfeger said it took longer than usual to clear the scene because of the barricaded apartment door.

“We had to enter the apartment by using a fire department ladder truck,” he said.

He said responders attended a large debriefing session after the event ended.