As It Happens

Minnesota beer truck driver talks distressed man off bridge, offers him a drink

Two beer delivery men are being credited with saving a Minnesota man's life after they talked him off the edge of a bridge.

Kwame Anderson says he channelled actor Denzel Washington to calmly persuade the man off the bridge

Beer deliverymen Jason Gable, left, and Kwame Anderson, right, kept a distressed Minnesota man from jumping off a bridge by calmly asking him questions and offering him beer. (Submitted by Kwame Anderson)

Read Story Transcript

Kwame Anderson knew something was wrong.

He and his co-worker were driving their beer delivery truck across a bridge in St. Paul, Minn., when they spotted a man perched on the ledge. They called out to him and, quickly, they realized he was in distress — and ready to jump.

Anderson spoke to As It Happens guest host Matt Galloway about what happened next, and how he eventually persuaded the man to seek safety.

Here is part of their conversation.

Mr. Anderson, what happened next?

At that moment, I hopped out of the truck and I ran over to the gentlemen and said, "Hey, sir, I don't know whatever it is that's going in your life right now, man. But whatever you think you want to do, please, don't do it. It's not worth it. Come back to the other side and we can just talk."

And he's like, "Man, you don't know me! You don't care about me! You don't got no reason to be stopping here. You don't know me!"

My co-worker [came over] at this point as well. And I tell him again, I'm like, "Hey, I don't have to know you to care about you, man. I don't want anybody to do what I think you are trying to do right now. So, if you can, just come to the other side where it's safe and we can talk."

And he's like, "I'm going to jump, man. Leave me alone! I'm going to jump!"

When he said that, I was like, this is really serious. He leaned forward and he was holding onto the gate and he jerked his body forward as though he was going to dive into the oncoming traffic. I took a step back and I just dialled 911 immediately.

I'm like, OK, anything can happen from now until the police get here. I've got to do something. I've got to think fast. I've got to react fast.

So, immediately it came into my brain: the movie with Denzel Washington.

Sorry, immediately you thought of Denzel Washington? 

Denzel Washington, good old Denzel.

Great actor, but why would you think of Denzel Washington?

Because he's always playing a cop and he's always handling situations with people. So I thought about him as a negotiator. 

I wanted to make sure I gave this guy his demands. But in order to give demands, you need to know what the demands are. So I'm like, you got to talk to him.

Alright, first thing I've got to do is gain some rapport. I asked him, I said, "Sir, what's your name?"

And then he responded, "Leroy."

I'm like, "OK, Leroy. I'm Kwame."

He's like, "Life is just too hard. Life is too hard. I don't want to live here no more."

I'm like, "Look, Leroy, calm down. Calm down."

I'm thinking I got to keep asking him more questions.

As you're having this conversation with him, is he still on the edge of the bridge?

Still on the edge. Every part of this conversation takes place on the edge of that bridge.

The cops are right next to me, but they're not interjecting too much. They're allowing me to have a conversation with him.

When they got there, they asked me the questions. I had all the information for them.

So when did he start to move away from the ledge of the bridge?

He doesn't start to move away until the end of our conversation. I talked to him for about 50 minutes on the bridge, almost an hour.

It's not until the end of the conversation where I get to him and I'm like, "Leroy, what can I do to get you off of the bridge? Do you want something to eat?"

He says, "Nah, I'm not hungry. I don't want no food. I got food at home."

I'm like, "OK, do you want some money?"

He's like, "Nah, I'm not a beggar. Times are hard, but I don't need no money."

I'm like, "OK, do you want a drink?"

And when I said, "drink," his eyes kind of lit up. 

You were able to say that because you're driving a beer truck.

Yes, indeed. I was like, "Do you want a beer?" And he was like, "Maybe." Then I was like, "A Coors Light?" And as soon as he kind of hesitated, I looked at the officers and I said, "Keep him occupied, I'll be right back."

I ran to the truck and grabbed a whole 12-pack of Coors Light.

I came running back and I'm like, "Leroy, if you get down from that ledge, this whole 12-pack is yours."

He looked at me and looked at the case. He grabbed to the right of the fence and he started inching toward the beer.

At that moment, I knew that I got him. I kept moving back, he kept following, and I was able to get him off the bridge.

Written by Zara Syed and John McGill. Produced by Zara Syed. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

If you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention