After six hours, authorities late Tuesday were still trying to coax a city man with a knife from his perch in a tall pine tree along Interstate 890.
Police were initially alerted to the man after several motorists noticed him urinating on the side of the road and dodging in and out of traffic during the late afternoon. When a city patrol car arrived to investigate around 5 p.m., the man darted toward a wooded area along the east side of the highway and then shinnied up a the trunk of a more-than-30-foot-tall pine tree.
Once in the tree, the man apparently showed a pair of butcher knives and threatened to harm himself.
Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said the man had an outstanding warrant from outside the area, but that it was for a relatively minor charge.
“Clearly, there are mental health issues here,” he said at the scene. He said the man is 29 years old but would not release his identity.
As of 11 p.m., the man remained in the tree, fire officials said.
Dozens of patrol cars and emergency vehicles crowded I-890 between Exit 6 and Exit 7, shutting down two lanes of the highway. The closed lanes caused traffic to bottleneck throughout rush hour and late into the evening.
Throughout the waiting, the man effortlessly moved about the tree, occasionally poking his head from the branches.
Police and firefighters attempted to negotiate with the man from the ground but eventually resorted to raising a bucket from a city ladder truck into the treetops. At one point, negotiators offered the man a turkey sandwich if he agreed to drop one of the knives he had tucked in his jacket. It was not clear whether he dropped a knife or took the sandwich.
Bennett said the man never threatened anyone with the knives other than himself. He said the man will likely be detained for a mental health evaluation but that he isn’t facing any charges outside of the original warrant for his arrest.
The bizarre scene along the highway drew attention from curious motorists. Bennett commented that the whole situation was a bit unusual, given the amount of time the man spent in the treetop.
“I’ve seen people climb trees to get away from police, but it usually doesn’t last this long,” he said.