Traffic is shut down in both directions on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge as police attempt to talk a person out of committing suicide.
“They’re trying to talk to this guy, trying to get this guy out of the vehicle and give him the help he needs,” says Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis.
Francis says the man is threatening to harm himself, but he does not know if he has a weapon. Eyewitnesses on the bridge say the man turned his vehicle to block lanes of traffic and spray-painted messages “Stay back” on the side of his vehicle.
Police are turning motorists in the southbound lanes around to go back to Mt. Pleasant.
UPDATE, 3:55 p.m.: Charleston police have confirmed that one southbound lane of the bridge (toward Charleston) is now open to traffic.
UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: City Paper photographer Mike Ledford says traffic is moving on the southbound side of the bridge (toward Charleston) but that police are still turning people around on the northbound side (toward Mt. Pleasant). As he drove past the precipice of the bridge, he say he saw a white SUV turned around blocking lanes amid a cluster of police cars.
Ledford says someone has used white paint to write messages on the windows of the SUV including “David,” “DC,” “Game Over,” “Stay Away,” and “Happy Now.” A sheriff’s deputy on the bridge did not know any further details when asked.
UPDATE, 4:45 p.m.: The SUV appears to be a white Lexus. Police still are not allowing automobile or pedestrian traffic onto the bridge from the Charleston side.
Sara Flowers, a College of Charleston student, says she parked her car on the Mt. Pleasant side and was walking over the bridge when traffic got shut down. She is now standing on the Charleston side, waiting for the bridge to open back up. Coincidentally, she says she was walking across the bridge the last time someone attempted suicide, when MUSC student Tosin Oyelowo jumped from the bridge and died on Dec. 9.
UPDATE, 5:05 p.m.: Jason Sakran, a spokesman for Charleston County School District, says that there are no buses on the bridge at this time. He says parents can expect slight delays as some of the buses take alternate routes involving Interstate 526.
UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: SCDOT camera footage appears to have shown police charging toward the man on the bridge and detaining him.
Asked whether the person on the bridge had a weapon with him, Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said, “We don’t know what he has with him in the vehicle.”
Traffic is currently blocked in both directions.
UPDATE, 7 p.m.: Traffic is moving in both directions on the bridge now. The man whom police arrested is Phillip DeClemente, age 38. According to a Charleston County spokesperson, DeClemente is a former member of the Charleston County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, but he has not been active with the fire squad for at least a year.[View the story “Ravenel Bridge shutdown” on Storify]