Man still on tower


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Updated: 8/15/2011 11:51 am Published: 8/11/2011 5:58 pm


A man atop the tower outside FOX23's studio still refuses to come down. 

As the standoff enters its fifth day, a Tulsa police negotiator says he believes the man will eventually become so tired and dehydrated that he has to give in to rescue efforts. 

Onlookers continue to flood parking lots and slow down along Memorial Drive. Negotiators believe spectators are a roadblock in their attempts to talk the man into descending, TPD says they will take anyone into custody who taunts or tries to provoke the man on the tower.

TPD and TFD have also scaled back their response significantly, keeping only a minimum number of officers and firefighters on the scene around the building because the man could eventually move from the tower to the roof or the ground.

The 25-year-old man, whom police have only identified as William, spent quite a bit of time yelling at officers Sunday, cursing and demanding food.  He has refused all rescue attempts with a fire department ladder and platform. Saturday morning, firefighters took their ladder down but the truck is in the vicinity just in case William relents. 

TPD says he's had no food or water since early Friday morning, when William drank Gatorade.  Officers are now offering food, water and cigarettes if William agrees to get off the tower.

William appeared to sleep on a cell phone transmitter attached to the tower throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning, often lying down; he's been in roughly the same spot since around 6pm Friday.  The transmitter has been deactivated by Verizon. 

Family members have been to the scene and are being updated, says a chief TPD negotiator.  He said William appears "afraid of people," is "paranoid," and a "loner."  TPD remains confident the man will come down, it is just a matter of when.

The standoff began just before 11 Thursday morning when employees inside the broadcast building shared by FOX23 and Clear Channel Radio discovered the man trespassing. They chased him to the roof where he gained access to the 300ft broadcast tower.  Throughout the day Thursday, he climbed between 70 and 200 feet on the tower-- sometimes sitting, dangling his legs, and standing.

Thursday evening a tactical officer left a bag containing water and a cell phone about 70 feet up, and William retrieved it.  He spoke to officers on the cell phone for about an hour Thursday evening, but the cell phone battery has since died. He's now communicating by yelling back and forth with negotiators. 

He nearly touched the ground around 7am Friday; but when he began to climb again, police used pepper balls in an attempt to subdue him. 

Friday night around 10:45, William ignored the second direct rescue attempt from firefighters.  Winds got too strong for firefighters to leave a rescue platform in the air for too long.  They gave the man a five minute warning to get on the platform or they'd bring it down, and he waved it off.  He has now been through three bouts of severe weather, including 60 mph winds, rain and lightning, as well as intense heat, all while on the tower.

Police say William has a criminal record including burglary and drug convictions, and a history of mental illness, although they do not believe he is suicidal. In fact, he told police negotiators in the wee hours Sunday he said he "doesn't believe in suicide" and negotiations seemed to take a religious turn.  However, late in the day Sunday, he told negotiators he would jump if they attempted to approach him with any rescue apparatus.

According to the TPD negotiator, he told police Thursday he had "to work some things out" and indicated he could be on the tower "for a week if he wanted."   He also expressed concerns about onlookers, asking why they were there, specifically pointing out people who'd brought children.

Negotiators say William has exhibited bizarre behavior in the past, including walking all the way from Tulsa to Dallas.  As recently as last month, he stood on a bridge in Missouri for hours.  Officers fear he has the endurance to stay on the tower for much longer.  Police also believe he has had a weapon while on the tower - an instrument they described as a metal object wrapped in tape.

TPD's chief negotiator said this is now a record standoff for the department, the longest one until now was 32 hours: a murder suspect in 1993.

EMSA crews are also waiting day and night.

EMSA public information officer Chris Stevens has never seen anything like it.

"This guy is tough," says Stevens, but "if someone was in normal healthy shape at 25, they could probably last a few days, which he has."

Stevens says heat stroke or dehydration could cause muscle cramping, even kidney failure.  William will be taken to a hospital once he's down from the tower and could face numerous charges including trespassing.  Police reiterated Sunday night that they must avoid touching him for fear he gets combative and makes the situation worse. 

FOX23 will continue following the situation, but coverage will be limited to significant updates only, with occasional updates on FOX23's facebook threads:  Facebook.com/fox23news.




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