“I went up the steps and the scene was not good. It was not something I have seen in 21 years of law enforcement,” said Lt. Stephen Noftz, a trained crisis negotiator. “I introduced myself as a guy named Steve who’s a lot of things before he is a cop.”
One of those things, Noftz said, was being a Christian.
“Things I drew upon from training: when you have a situation like this, it’s trusting God to speak to you,” he said. Noftz was responding to a report of an unidentified OU employee sitting with his legs over the railing on the fifth floor of Baker Center. The man eventually got down from his perch after more than three hours of talking with police.
Police have not yet released the man’s name, age and department because the investigation is ongoing, said Sgt. John Stabler of the OU Police Department. The man has not been charged with any crime, he said.
OUPD first responded to a call around 1 p.m. about a man who contacted his father-in-law, an employee at Chubb Hall, and threatened to commit suicide, according to a preliminary police report.
Noftz declined to say why the man was suicidal.
Police searched the campus, including the man’s work area, before they found out he might be at home. While on their way to the man’s residence, Ohio University police and the Athens County Sheriff’s Office were both notified that the man was on the fifth floor of Baker Center, perched with his legs over the railing.
Police arrived at Baker Center at about 1:30 p.m. and evacuated the building a short time later, said Joe Brennan, executive director of Communications and Marketing.
A group of onlookers gathered outside Baker Center to watch the standoff, some gawking, others praying. At about 4:20 p.m., Stabler, one of several law enforcement officials on the scene, asked a Post photographer to change her position outside because her camera “was causing (the man) angst.”
The man would not allow anyone near him except Noftz — who said that he first talked to the man on the phone before entering Baker Center — the chief of police and a friend that Noftz would not name.
Noftz said from the time of their phone call to his arrival at Baker Center, he prayed, adding that he passed a friend on the way to the building and told him to pray for the man on the ledge.
When Noftz finally arrived at Baker Center, he said he told the man, “I am a guy named Steve who cares about your situation and doesn’t want to see you hurt yourself.”
From there, the conversation turned to God.
Noftz, who sat within 10 feet of the man’s perch, said he talked about God because the man also was Christian.
While Noftz and the man talked, students outside Baker Center prayed for and wrote letters to the man.
The letters — an idea by Stephanie Ramsay, a junior photojournalism major — were a blessing, Noftz said.
“While I was praying, I had an idea that popped in my head that I can only attribute to God, to write letters that people care about him,” Ramsay said.
Noftz said the man worried people would judge him, but the letters showed there was no need to be embarrassed. “I really do think it let him know that there are a lot of people who cared about the circumstance and who cared about him,” Noftz said.
The letters, which The Columbus Dispatch posted on its Web site Sunday, focused on the students’ understanding of the man’s situation and God’s love in spite of it.
“I’m one of the girls you talked to and told me I should leave. If I had known why you told us that I would have stayed,” said one letter, written by freshman magazine journalism major Katelynn Cole. “I would have stayed to tell you that there is a reason you were created and a reason you have life. There is a creator who loves you so much and created you the way you are on purpose. He has an awesome plan for your life and I pray that someday you’ll be able to know, truly know that love God has for you.”
Noftz said that at some point, the man wanted to make phone calls, but promised he would not act without speaking to him first.
At about 5 p.m., the standoff ended with the man climbing back over the railing onto solid floor. He was taken to O’Bleness Memorial Hospital for a medical and psychological evaluation, said Joe Brennan, executive director of Communications and Marketing.
Brennan said he did not know what precautions OU takes for people who might threaten suicide in a campus building, but added the university is fortunate to have crisis intervention specialists, such as Noftz, to help.
“The bottom line is you need to be yourself. You need to be honest, and as long as you are yourself, you can’t screw up,” Noftz said, referring to how he approaches crises like this one. “Don’t lie, don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
COME SEE OUR NEW WEBSITE!! NOW YOU CAN ADVERTISE THERE CHEAP!!
COME BE PART OF THIS EXCITING COMMUNITY!