LPD officer rushes to help man who jumped off I-180 bridge

LPD officer saves man who jumped onto I-180.
LPD officer saves man who jumped onto I-180.(Reporter)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 11:01 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - An officer with the Lincoln Police Department recently rushed to help a man he saw jump off a bridge.

On Tuesday, just before 10 p.m., Officer Austin Espinoza was driving along Superior Street over I-180 when he noticed a man walking eastbound along the westbound lanes.

“On the overpass I observed a male walking eastbound on the bridge and I thought it was very strange,” said Officer Espinoza.

Officer Espinoza looked in his mirror moments later and saw the man propping his leg on the ledge of the bridge. While the officer tried finding a place to turn around, he looked back and didn’t see the man any longer.

Officer Espinoza turned his patrol car around and found that the man had jumped from the bridge onto northbound I-180, which is roughly 24-feet above ground.

“The worst feeling hit me I expected the worse and I looked over the north side of the bridge and I did observe a male on I-180,” said Officer Espinoza.

LPD said there was traffic approaching the man and several cars almost hit him.

Officer Espinoza ran down the embankment, using his flashlight to alert on-coming traffic and tended to the man lying in traffic.

“In my head, I weighed the risks, that I wouldn’t have my cruiser, it was just going to be me and my reflective stripes on my uniform with a flashlight,” said Officer Espinoza. “It was a very dangerous action but as a Lincoln police officer we take an oath to protect to people no matter what.”

The speed limit in that area is 65 miles per hour. Officer Espinoza says he directed traffic for about five minutes before backup arrived.

“It was scary,” said Officer Espinoza. “I didn’t know if the cars would see us or not. We had some close calls with some vehicles that made last-second lane changes avoiding us, thankfully.”

LPD said the man has very serious injuries and officers performed first aid until Lincoln Fire and Rescue arrived.

To prevent on-coming traffic from hitting the man, the officer stayed in the lane of traffic, alerting drivers, and then other responding officers helped with traffic control.

The man was taken to an area hospital and is in critical condition.

Officer Espinoza says talking with friends and family and his history in the Marines helped him process what he’d done.

“It’ll be something I think about a lot but I’d do it again,” said Officer Espinoza

If you need help, you can call the 24-hour Crisis Line at Centerpointe at (402) 475-6695.

Help is always available at the Mental Health Association Keya House Warmline at (402) 261-5959 or you can call Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-8255.

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