Deschutes County sheriff?s deputies and a mental health counselor talked an armed, suicidal Bend man who allegedly stole two rental cars off the edge of a bridge over the Crooked River Gorge Friday, and he was taken to the hospital for mental evaluation.
Highway 97 north of Terrebonne was shut for about a half-hour during the real-life drama, which began when sheriff?s deputies was dispatched to a home on Paulina View Road in La Pine around 11:30 a.m. to search for a stolen car, black 2011 Mercedes-Benz 450 SUV, said Lt. Chad Davis.
Davis said Hertz called from LA, asking them to check the address and reporting that Erik William Johnson, 39, of Bend, was a suspect in the theft.
Deputies found the SUV at the La Pine address, but then learned Johnson was driving a white 2012 Chevy Corvette, which they later learned also had been stolen from Hertz in LA, Davis said.
The deputies got Johnson on the phone, and Davis said he told them he was armed and considering hurting himself.
Sheriff?s deputies searched for Johnson on Highway 97 south of Bend and were able to track his location with a cellphone ?ping,? the lieutenant said.
They later learned Johnson was heading north on the highway in Terrebonne, Davis said.
A sheriff?s deputy found the Corvette parked at the Peter Skene Ogden Wayside day-use parking lot, beside the Rex T. Barber Memorial Bridge north of Terrebonne, Davis said.
The deputy found Johnson on the walking bridge over the gorge and began negotiating with him while he stood on a pipe on the outside edge of the bridge, Davis said.
Highway 97 was shut down for about a half-hour during negotiations and Jefferson County sheriff?s deputies evacuated the day-use parking lot as a precaution.
Davis said another deputy began negotiating with Johnson by cellphone and made arrangements for a mental health counselor to speak with him.
Johnson eventually agreed to step off the edge of the bridge and walk toward deputies and officers assembled near the end of the bridge. Davis said he was unhurt, and while he had a 9-mm handgun, no force was needed to take him into custody. He was taken to St. Charles Medical Center-Bend for a mental health evaluation.
The investigation is continuing, Davis said. Also assisting in the incident were Oregon State Police, Redmond police and ODOT, he said.
Authorities and media rarely report on suicides or suicidal subjects unless there is a public impact, such as a road closure or evacuations. Davis noted the other facets of what took place, including the successful negotiations with the man.