Man comes down from tall tree after 24 hours

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A man who gained international attention for sitting atop an 80-foot tree in downtown Seattle came down to the ground after perching for 24 hours.

When the 28-year-old man's feet hit the ground, the crowd cheered. He sat on the ground and ate a pear.

Police and medics approached him with restraints and a stretcher. The man appeared calm and cooperative.

Tiara Shadley watched for hours. "I was terrified. My heart was pounding. As soon as he came down, there was an overwhelming warmth of 'phew.' I'm so glad that he's safe," said Shadley.

Police said there were no plans to arrest the man. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center for a mental health evaluation.

If King County mental health evaluators think he is a danger to himself or others, he will be put on a 72-hour hold for mental health treatment.

Police say they did not know if the man is homeless. They said records showed they had a previous encounter with him but did not release the nature of that incident.

Still, no one knows why the man climbed the tree.

"There doesn't have to be a 'why'. He can just climb a tree. This is America,” said Michael Brown, who watched the man in the tree for hours.

Workers examined the tree and cut off some damaged branches. They used a Seattle City Light bucket truck to get to the top.

Once it was determined the tree was not damaged, police reopened the streets nearby.

KIRO 7 asked Seattle police and fire officials what the incident cost in overtime and resources. Seattle police expected to have an estimate in a few days.

"We're very glad we were able to work with him and bring the gentleman down out of the tree safely," said Seattle police Detective Patrick Michaud.


KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

  • Man climbed to top of tree Tuesday morning
  • Seattle fire and police departments helping at scene
  • Traffic was affected as Stewart Street and Olive Way closed down in areas. 
  • Man came down just before noon on Wednesday
  • 80-foot sequoia tree believed in place since 1970s
  • SPD has no plan to arrest man after he has a mental health evaluation at Harborview.

A crowd of people gathered around the scene -- next to the Macy’s building on Tuesday morning when fire crews first responded. 

At first it was unclear if the man was unconscious, but then KIRO 7 Chopper video showed him throwing an object, which was reportedly an apple.

Negotiators have been trying to speak with the man.

Throughout the Tuesday, the man in the tree has thrown an apple, branches, pine cones and various other items at officers. Police say the man's "precarious position" high above the ground endangers himself and others.

Police did not share their strategy with KIRO 7 News on Wednesday as the scene hit its 24th hour. 

Here's a timeline of events starting from Wednesday morning to when the scene started:

  • [11:57 a.m.] The man is rolled away on a stretcher. 
  • [11:46 a.m.] The man has come down with what appears to be little injuries.
  • [11:40 a.m.] The man in the tree starts to come down. 
  • [11:15 a.m.] A KIRO 7 News reporter on scene says negotiators are in the window of the Macy's store next to the tree.
  • [9 a.m.] Seattle fire tweets that it is hoping for a safe resolution. 
  • [8 a.m.] KIRO 7 News crews are stationed near the Macy's monitoring the rescue operation. There is no indication the man will come down anytime soon.
  • [5 a.m.] Police are opening two lanes of Stewart Street, which was closed between 4th and 5th for the morning commute. Olive Way is still closed from 3rd and 4th
  • [1 a.m.] Overnight, the man started coming down the tree because a woman reportedly said she would give him a kiss, but he retreated likely in fear of arrest. 
  • [11:15 p.m.] The man was still in the tree.
  • [8:57 p.m.] The man climbed back up.
  • [8:55 p.m.] The man climbed halfway down the tree and started yelling at police along the way.
  • [7:30 p.m.] Negotiations underway so long new police shifts swapping in.
  • [7:01 p.m. ] Roadway along 4th, closed throughout day, has reopened to traffic. Negotiators are standing by. Seattle fire officials have left scene.
  • [6:39 p.m.] Fans of the man in the tree begin populating. Man in tree has his own Twitter account. Supporters' signs read: "Trees are not owned. Leave him alone."

 

  • [6:07 p.m] Going on seven hours. Man in tree can be seen hanging upside down. 
  • [5:53 p.m. ] Man seen whittling a stick.
  • [5:29 p.m.] Climbs partially down the tree, then turns around and climbs back up.
  • [11:00 a.m.] Around this time, man climbs to the top of an 80-foot, downtown Seattle sequoia tree.

 

A Seattle Fire spokesperson said they do not have a safety net to put under the tree. 

KIRO 7 spoke to an employee of King County Community and Human Services, who said someone with a mental health crisis on the streets would likely be brought to Harborview first. One would get a diagnosis there, before being directed to other services. 

 

The scene is drawing hundreds of onlookers and thousands more with a worldwide online audience.  It also made some people ask: How long has that tree been there?

The tree was originally at Mercer Street and Aurora Avenue North and was replanted in fall 1973 at the current location. At the time it was 35 feet tall, and given 4 to 1 odds it would survive because of the replanting shock.

The tree was part of a redesign of the Jewett Triangle, named for John Jewett, a longtime Seattle businessman who died in 1971.

There is still a plaque near the base of the tree remembering Jewett, who was born in 1910, and marking the Fourth Avenue Stewart Street Triangle Improvement, which was dubbed "Operation Triangle."

"The President's Club of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce donated $1,000 to the project and the balance, $12,000, came from Forward Thrust funds," according to a Seattle Times story from Sept. 13, 1973.

By the time the tree was installed in 1973, 26 similar triangles were completed on street rights-of-way as part of Operation Triangle, according to the article. The tree was often used for Christmas celebrations since at least 1992.

In summer 2010, the city did emergency work on the sequoia tree at Fourth and Olive because of a loss to about 10 feet of the tree's top. City staff consulted with an internationally known tree expert. Soil renovation was done, and follow-up care was done for weeks to ensure the tree's survival.

Forward Thrust, which paid most of the tree replanting costs, was a collection of civic improvement bond proposals. Some Forward Thrust proposals were approved in February 1968 and May 1970 Thursday, leading to the Kingdome, arterial highways, neighborhood improvements fire protection and other changes.

One of the parts that failed in both 1968 and 1970 was a regional rail transit system - something similar to what is being done by Sound Transit now.