“He’s about to jump. This is it.” Recently named SETX Officer of the Year recounts life-saving moments.
Published 12:14 am Friday, September 15, 2023
VIDOR — A Vidor police officer who helped a man who was having a mental crisis was honored recently for saving his life.
Officer Brittany Haley was named the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas’ 2023 Officer of the Year for the Southeast Texas region, according to Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll.
Haley, who was been an officer for four-and-a-half years, said the honor is unexpected.
She described what she did in those moments as instinct.
Haley was on duty Sept. 15, 2002, when the department received a call of a person in a mental crisis threatening suicide by jumping from the Highway 12 overpass onto Interstate 10 eastbound.
The 20-year-old man was sitting on the rail contemplating jumping from the overpass, which is 25 feet over the roadway, Carroll said.
But when offices approached, the man threw one leg over the outside wall and he was threatening to jump if they got any closer.
“By using her skills, compassion and empathy, she made contact with the man and made a connection,” Carroll said.
At one point the man put both legs over the overpass and was only holding on by his forearms; he then began a countdown to jump.
“Officers continued to express empathy and care for the individual, which caused him to hold on to the bridge and pull himself up,” Carroll said in a news release. “After several moments, the subject allowed officers to approach him and escort him to an awaiting ambulance. The subject was transported to Baptist Hospital for a mental health evaluation by Acadian Ambulance Service.
The ordeal led Carroll to enter Haley’s name for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas award.
The association includes nine regions, and each region honors an officer of the year.
Haley spoke with Port Arthur Newsmedia in September 2022, saying she doesn’t remember the exact words she spoke to the man who, at that time, closed his eyes and was counting down.
“It was more of a reaction than a thought,” Haley said of the actions that took place Sept. 15, 2022, and ultimately saved the man’s life.
She had never been in a situation such as this, but she knew she did not want the man to jump.
Haley was across the highway from the man and asked if she could approach. She learned he was struggling with addiction and had been clean for a month.
She knew a little about him through past encounters with police.
“It was one of those hard days he felt he couldn’t get through without getting high again, and said he would rather die then go through the struggle,” Haley recalled.
The officer shared she is close with someone going through a similar struggle and believes that’s how they connected.
At that pivotal moment with him on the railing, Haley had no idea what was going through his mind.
He stopped talking to her, swung his legs over the rail, took a deep breath and closed his eyes. She thought, “he’s about to jump. This is it.”
But in that instant, words were spoken and instead of him falling, he went forward. “I ran to him, grabbed his hands, held them and told him I was proud of him. I know it was a hard decision,” Haley said.