Police continue to engage with man threatening to leap from Government Center balcony

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August 16, 2010 // UPDATED 3:50 pm - August 24, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

UPDATE: Detectives managed to talk the 44 year-old man down from his perch on the 23rd floor around 6 p.m. The high, open walkways and balconies of the county government center have triggered security debates since the building opened in 1977. Three people jumped to their death there in the 1970s. There was another attempt in 1997. Clear plastic barriers were built in the early 1980s to prevent similar attempts.

 

Police are still engaging with a man threatening to hurl himself from a balcony inside the Hennepin County Government Center hours after the standoff began, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

Around 3:15 p.m. this afternoon, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Kiava confirmed that the man was still on one of the building’s top floors, though she could not say for certain which.

Kiava said the incident began around noon, though she did not know what triggered it, nor could she offer any specifics about the man in question.

“I know nothing about him,” she said.

According to news reports, the man climbed over a barrier of a bridge on the 23rd floor and sat in a planter. He led passersby to believe he was preparing to jump.

County authorities evacuated the atrium floor below and shut down elevator service to the courthouse and administration towers as detectives went to talk to the man, said Kiava. At 1:30 p.m., employees and visitors were allowed back inside and into the elevators. Guards are currently limiting access to the southern end of the atrium floor.

Outside, two fire trucks were parked at the building, and an officer was directing people away from the south entrance, asking that they enter instead from the north plaza. Inside the main atrium, the scene was calm, with business continuing largely as usual.

“They’re trying to keep people to one side and just kind of use the elevators and access the building and not have as many people on the public service level” that forms the floor of the atrium, said Kiava.

The Hennepin County Board, which had been scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. in the board room on the 24th floor, cancelled its meeting. Items on the agenda will be taken up on Sept. 7.