Victim of alleged suicide still missing

by Kelly Wittman

Police searched for several hours Friday but did not find the body of a man who witnesses said jumped from the Washington Avenue Bridge that morning.
Sgt. Ken Schilling of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Water Patrol said several witnesses reported that a man had jumped from the pedestrian walkway of the bridge at about 10:50 a.m. The man was reportedly wearing a flannel shirt and Sorel boots.
A student who witnessed the incident said she was walking to the West Bank for class when she saw the bottom of a pair of Sorel boots as a man jumped headfirst from the bridge.
When she looked over the side of the railing she said she saw the man in the water. He was conscious and was trying to stay afloat while calling for help, the witness said.
She then ran to a phone and called for help. The police came within three minutes, the witness said, but by that time the man had gone under the water. Schilling called the incident an apparent suicide.
Water patrol officers searched the river in two boats, but early in the afternoon Schilling said the search for the man might be a long one.
Schilling said river conditions and the fact that police don’t have a good target search location to concentrate on are making the search difficult. Not only did the man fall into water about nine feet deep but the water temperature is also generally between 35 and 39 degrees this time of year, and the current is moving quickly, he said.
The identity of the man is still unknown, Schilling said. University Police said they have no missing persons reports connected to the incident Friday.
Officers will search the river daily until they find the body of the man, Schilling said.
The University community seems to be experiencing more than its share of depression and suicidal behavior this year, said Lud Spolyar, a counselor with University Counseling and Consulting Services.
Spolyar said his office has seen a large number of depressed students this winter. Usually the months of January, February and March are when counselors observe more depression than in other months, he said.
Nationwide, the suicide rate usually increases in June and July, coming off the winter months, he said. But University counselors saw a higher-than-average number of suicide attempts this fall, Spolyar said.
He also said there is help available on campus for those feeling depressed or suicidal. Counselors at both Boynton Health Service and University Counseling and Consulting Services offer either long-term services for depression or walk-in appointments for students who need immediate help.
— Staff Reporter Joe Carlson contributed to this report