Rescuers get man off of tower


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Updated: 8/17/2011 3:32 am Published: 8/15/2011 11:56 am


Update- A retired Tulsa Police negotiator coaxed William Sturdivant into a rescue bucket from the Clear Channel radio tower at 27th & Memorial, outside the building Clear Channel shares with FOX23, just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Tyrone Lynn went up into the fire department rescue bucket around 11:15 a.m Tuesday.  He spoke to William for seven and a half hours, giving him small amounts of water; trying to encourage him, touching his hand or face at times, and at one point even catching William when he passed out briefly.

Lynn is retired from the force and had been hailed for his work at TPD; he was called in specifically to help bring William down safely.  Lynn says he believed he gained William's trust when he began talking about children.  William Sturdivant has one child, and another on the way, friends said.

Sturdivant had been on the tower since last Thursday morning, spending a total of 127 hours and 40 minutes about 150 feet in the air. 

Up until Thursday, William refused all rescue attempts with a fire department ladder and platform.  He did not have any food or water from Friday until late Thursday afternoon and evening, when Lynn splashed water on him and gave him small amounts. Officers had offered food, water and cigarettes for five days, if William agreed to get off the tower.

Most of Sturdivant's time on the tower was spent on a cell phone transmitter, often lying down, sometimes standing, climbing, sitting and crawling and occasionally yelling at officers. The transmitter had been deactivated by Verizon which now must inspect the cell phone relay.

Family members have been updated.  TPD officers believe Sturdivant suffers from a mental illness or personality disorder. One negotiator said Friday Sturdivant appears "afraid of people," is "paranoid," and a "loner." TPD remained confident throughout the standoff William would come down, it was 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 Sturdivant trespassing. They chased him to the roof where he gained access to the 300ft radio broadcast tower, owned by Clear Channel and also utilized by FOX23 to transmit and receive signals.

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 died after a couple of hours. He then communicated by yelling back and forth with negotiators.

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

Friday night around 10:45, winds got too strong for firefighters to leave a rescue platform in the air for too long. He went 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 Sturdivant has a criminal record including burglary and drug convictions, although they did not believe he was ever suicidal. In fact, he told police negotiators in the wee hours Sunday he said he "doesn't believe in suicide."  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.  Just before 3am Tuesday, he stood an said "I've been thinking about forgiveness.  I forgive you for shooting me [with pepper balls].  I don't trust you."  Negotiator Tyrone Lynn spent the better part of Tuesday gaining that trust enough to coax William into the rescue bucket.

Negotiators say Sturdivant 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 say they never discovered a weapon on Sturdivant's person after the surrender.  He was wearing only boxer shorts when he came down from the tower, dropping his shoes Sunday, his socks and shirt Monday, and his shorts Tuesday afternoon.

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

Right now, William's health is of the utmost concern.  He was taken to Hillcrest non-emergency in an ambulance, and his family is gathered at the hospital as well.  He's stable and undergoing tests and police say he chatted all the way to the hospital while in the ambulance.  He had blisters covering his body and soles of his feet from the sun and hot steel,  he also had contusions and bruises from the pepper balls and climbing.  Sturdivant was so dehydrated he appeared significantly thinner, with sunken cheeks, and severely parched lips.  He faces a trespassing citation.  It's likely he could undergo a psychological evaluation.  Oklahoma does not have a restitution law so the city won't require him to pay back costs for the standoff.

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