Michael D. Kelly, 23, commandeered large construction crane in Atlanta hangs himself after daylong standoff.
The man in a suit climbed up a 200-foot construction crane and held police at bay all day Thursday, reading a Bible, scribbling and, at one point, dropping a blank check as psychologists and his mother tried via cell phone to talk him into coming down.
Police said the 23-year-old man threatened to hurt anyone who climbed up after him. But he made no demands, and was not believed to be a danger to others as he waited out the police in the cockpit at the top of the crane.
Early on, police feared that the man had a gun and evacuated about 250 workers from the BellSouth Corp. site north of downtown.
His mother, two psychologists and police tried to persuade him to come down. But he was still there more than 11 hours after he was found.
As his cell phone ran out of power, a bullhorn was used to communicate with him.
Hoping to sweat him out, police turned off the air conditioning in the cockpit and estimated the temperature inside was 95 to 100 degrees. But the man occasionally opened the cockpit door and walked or crouched on the open-air platform outside.
The steel crane is at a large construction site in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, home to offices, stores and apartments, where BellSouth is putting up two buildings.
The man apparently scaled a fence and climbed the crane’s long ladder overnight, said Steen Miles, a spokeswoman for Atlanta’s transit system. A crane operator said he found the man around 6 a.m., when he climbed up to begin work.
The distraught man demanded the worker’s cell phone and said he was an FBI agent watching the Gold Club, a nearby strip club at the center of a salacious federal racketeering trial. FBI agent Richard Kolko, who was at the scene, said there was no indication that the man had ever been a bureau employee.
The operator described the man as white and wearing a suit. Officials said he had a record for minor offenses in Newton County and Athens, where he had failed to appear for a hearing.
He dropped a blank check from the crane about 8 a.m. On it was the message “I’m on the crane. Call police.” Later, he was crumbling papers and throwing them off the crane. It was unknown what the papers were.
Police said no one saw the man holding a weapon, although he told the crane operator that he was “authorized to do bodily harm” to anyone who came after him.
Authorities planned to use a helicopter to bring the man down if he refused to climb back down to the crane cockpit. They were reluctant to try to grab him unless he agreed to go down peacefully.
“We want to make sure he does nothing to harm himself up at that distance,” Fulton County Sheriff Sgt. C.V. Huber Jr. said.
Some buses were rerouted during the standoff, but commuter trains continued to run at a busy station across the street.