©1999 - 2013
Edward D. Reuss
All rights reserved. Including the right of reproduction in whole or part in any form



It is over 300 feet down from the torch held in the upraised arm of the Statue of Liberty to ground level.  The small group of sightseers inside the crown of the Statue thrilled to the panoramic sight of the Manhattan Skyline.  The Verrazano Bridge and the Narrows shimmered in the distance.  It was a clear day and the surface of the Upper New York Harbor was dappled with different hues of green as the whitecaps of seafoam sprayed in the seabreeze far below them. The disturbed young man looked out of the row of windows in the crown of Lady Liberty and calmly reached into his knapsack and removed the small hammer.  He was celebrating his twenty-first birthday today. He had aspirations of becoming the Mayor of the City of New York. He wanted to straighten out the City, so he decided to get some publicity for his campaign.  He took the homemade leaflets and crammed them into his pockets and proceeded to smash one of the small windows in the crown.  The small group of tourists inside the crown fled down the small stairwell as he knocked out the center plexi-glass viewing port.

He snaked his thin body through the small opening and grabbed one of the rays of the crown above him.   It was a little difficult for him to get his body around the lip of the crown that encircled the head of the Statue, but he managed to pull himself up and onto the head itself. He sat down and surveyed the scene below him. He took the small pieces of paper from his pocket and began to throw them into the air.   It was a beautiful day in New York and he watched as the makeshift leaflets fluttered in every direction.   Meanwhile, the alarmed tourists had notified the US Park Rangers who called 911.

The cops who work Emergency Service of the NYPD are assigned their jobs by the Citywide Dispatcher in the Police Communications Unit. ESU units in all five Boroughs of the City of New York are on the same frequency. Citywide Radio is also monitored by the Aviation Unit (helicopters), Harbor Unit (police boats) and the Highway Units (motorcycle). When the report of the "possible jumper on the Statue of Liberty" was transmitted, Police Officer George Toth and his partner, Officer Alfred Mosher, of Emergency Service Truck One in Manhattan South picked up the job. They were both experienced Emergency Service cops and listened to the dispatcher update the job as they rushed through the Manhattan traffic. The best way to get out to Liberty Island was to take the regular excursion boat that left from Battery Park at the tip of Lower Manhattan.  They arrived at the pier just as the boat was ready to leave and got on board with as much equipment as they could carry.   At least they had their Morrissey Belts and safety lines. The trip out to the Statue took about 15 minutes.  The tourists eyed them with curiosity as the small boat churned through the choppy harbor.   They listened to the chatter on the Citywide Radio and heard the Aviation Unit transmit that they were picking up Emergency Service cops in Brooklyn to fly out to Liberty Island.  They were unaware that another Emergency Service Unit from Truck One was also on board. Police Officer Robert Gates and Officer Paul Kawas were watching the top of the Statue as the boatload full of tourists chatted and enjoyed themselves. 

Police Officer Edward Coulter of Emergency Truck Eight in Brooklyn had picked up the job also and had called for the NYPD Harbor Unit Launch to meet him on a Brooklyn Pier.   Coulter and his family had visited the Statue the previous month, so he was familiar with the inside layout of the Statue.  As he waited, he heard his Lieutenant transmit that he was delayed by heavy traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.  When a NYPD helicopter arrived on the pier, Coulter threw his gear into the chopper and hopped a ride out to the Statue.  He was one of the first cops to arrive and met the US Park Rangers. They excitedly pointed up at the man on the head of Lady Liberty.     

The elevator in the monument only goes to the observation deck located at the top of the pedestal. Visitors must then walk up the stairs in the interior of the Statue itself.  A small stairwell leads into the room inside the crown. The public does not have access to the stairwell inside the upraised arm that leads up to the torch.  Coulter was also an experienced Emergency Service cop and had his Morrissey Belt and safety lines with him as he trudged up the stairs.  He could hear the other cops below him as he neared the top.  George Toth and Al Mosher knew enough to take their time walking up those stairs. They carried their equipment and conserved energy that they knew they would need later. The Police chopper circled the monument and kept Citywide apprised of the situation. A video camera on the chopper recorded the actions of the "jumper" for the Command and Control Center in One Police Plaza.  They could only watch as the ESU cops did their thing.

Officer Coulter looked out the small port, but couldn't see the "jumper". He shouted out the window, but got no answer. He rigged up safety lines around one of the rays above the small window.  Officers Gates and Kawas nodded to Coulter as they arrived in the crown. These guys were all veteran Emergency Service cops.  They knew the drill.   Officers Toth and Mosher could see that they had to get above the "jumper" to lower safety lines.  A US Park Ranger opened a small door and escorted the two cops up  to the torch. They could feel the arm shake under their weight as they climbed the ladder inside the arm.  It had been closed to the public for years. A century of visitors had taken its toll on the old Statue.  It would undergo a complete renovation for the Centennial Celebration, but that was in the future. Now there were three large men carrying heavy equipment up the creaky hundred-year-old arm.  When they came out onto the torch, they looked below and saw the "jumper" sitting down on the head of the Statue and Officer Coulter swinging out into space. 

Coulter had all he could do to get his body with the Morrissey Belt though the small opening.  He managed to get on top with the "jumper" and stayed a distance from him as he tried to open a dialogue with him.  Officer Robert Gates was also thin enough to slide outside the window of the crown. When Gates grabbed the ray on the crown, he noticed the rivets were loose on the aging copper skin of the Statue.  Gates and Coulter now saw that the "jumper" was a very young man. Gates remembers that the kid was very demanding.  He said the kid wanted a radio to listen to the reports on the news about his actions. He watched as the kid walked on the head of the Statue towards the rear of the copper head.  The green patina on the copper statue made the surface rough in texture and enabled the kid to walk without slipping.  

 Coulter had prior experience with jumpers on bridges and other buildings, and he knew the technique of dealing with them.  The experiences that the cops of the ESU had with jumpers and other suicides could fill a book. These cops used methods that had become part of the procedures of the Hostage Negotiation Unit.  They knew that they had to establish a rapport with the EDP.  The reasons for the despondency or need for attention were usually similar, but the cops knew that the first moments of contact were critical. If the EDP was determined to jump, any quick movement by the rescuers could hasten that decision.  Sometimes, despondent EDPs would want to speak their mind and reveal the reasons for their actions. Hopefully, in this case, the kid was only trying to get attention. Coulter had no way of knowing the young man's intentions in those first moments of conversation. The cop sat down on the copper Statue and remembered making a mental note of the beauty of the sculpture.  Many times, the close human contact of a caring and mature authority figure had a calming effect on the emotionally disturbed.

Meanwhile, Officers Toth and Mosher were busy rigging up safety lines up in the torch.  They attached the lines to the ornate railing and dropped them down to Coulter. The safety lines dangled near the "jumper" as Officer Robert Gates assisted Coulter on the crown below them.  George Toth felt the arm vibrating and wondered about any additional weight being placed on the old Statue. The railings of the old torch hadn't been designed to support the weight of men dangling from safety lines.  There were no other alternatives. 

Officer Coulter began a conversation with the young man that was to last for over an hour. "In all the years that I spent in Emergency Service", said Coulter, "I was involved in a bunch of tussles with various EDPs and other assorted "tough guys", I never struck any of them unnecessarily. Now, here I was on top of the Statue of Liberty with this smart-ass kid. After about an hour of bullshitting with him, I convinced him to allow me to tie him in to me so he wouldn't get hurt.  I grabbed the two lines hanging down from the torch, and I attached them to the kid." 

Coulter continued: "After I tied the kid in, he began to stall and pull on the safety line.  At first, I didn't realize what he was trying to do. Then I saw that he was testing it to see if the line would hold him. He was planning on swinging out to the Statue's upraised arm and finding himself a new perch.  That was not gonna happen! I pulled him closer to me as he resisted and then I decided to let this kid know that he was no longer running the show. I clocked him twice across his face. Bob Gates grabbed him and we secured him with a set of handcuffs.  He still struggled as we lowered him to the window in the crown.  The other emergency cops grabbed his legs and pulled him inside. 

Officer Gates remembers that as they came out of the monument at ground level, the kid turned to him and asked: "Have you ever been up the Citicorp Building?" When Gates answered that he had not, the kid said: "I'll see you up there next week". The Federal Park Rangers placed him under arrest and took him to Federal Court in Manhattan where the court recognized his need for psychiatric help.

Sergeant Edward Coulter, NYPD (retired) now lives in the Big Sky Country in Montana. He and Officer Bob Gates were awarded the Exceptional Merit Award of the NYPD for their actions in the rescue recounted in this story.  Police Officers like them and the other cops in this story are a part of a great tradition of service. This rescue of a troubled young man was accomplished without injury or damage to property.  There are very few with the guts to climb outside that crown and save that kid perched on top of the Statue of Liberty. The next time you hear some wisecrack about cops and donuts, consider stories like this one and think about the officers who serve in the Emergency Service of the New York City Police Department.  They are doing the Lord's work.

Photos from collection of Det. George Toth & Sgt. Edward Coulter

©Copyright l999 Edward D. Reuss



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