Bridge standoff

Published 12:48 am Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SELMA — A Greenville man is undergoing mental evaluation at an undisclosed location after he threatened to jump off the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a standoff with authorities that lasted more than an hour.

Algia Edwards, 53, stood on the bridge early Tuesday afternoon and shouted he would jump. At one point he straddled a rail, and demanded police bring an unidentified man to justice who allegedly had arrived at his home with a gun.

Dressed in a white shirt, Edwards stood on the bridge near the railing, shouted and pointed to vehicles and the water as traffic slowed down about 1:45 p.m.

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A passerby called authorities, who jumped into action, closed the bridge and began to talk to Edwards.

“Our basic thing was to get him off the bridge,” said Police chief William T. Riley III, who negotiated with Edwards for more than 45 minutes during the standoff.

Edwards made a couple of demands: for the media, to have police help him with the man who pulled the gun on him and to talk to Jimmy Nunn, the city’s attorney.

During the negotiations Edwards stripped off his coat, shirt and shoes and tossed them in the Alabama River below. He took his watch and threw it to the pavement.

Nunn arrived and tossed his coat to Edwards for warmth. The attorney had talked to Edwards earlier Tuesday.

“He came to my office this morning and I talked to him for about an hour and a half at around 11:30 or 12,” Nunn said in an interview after the incident. “then I was called this evening around 2 because he wanted me on the bridge. He was looking for someone to talk to. I think he thought I was the only person who would sit and talk to him. Someone referred him to my office.”

Nunn said Edwards talked about personal problems.

“He talked about other criminal acts,” the attorney said. “He wanted to hurt someone else, and I talked him out of that. I told him if he kills that person he would be in prison probably for the rest of his life. I said that life is worth living. He has four beautiful kids and he’s putting them through college.”

Nunn said the man knew city Community Planning and Development Director Charlotte Griffeth. “I had her on the phone. I threw my phone to him. We were talking to him that we were going to do justice and about his kids and he came down,” Nunn said.

The attorney said he didn’t remember what Edwards said while on the bridge. “I was a little shaken up myself. I know he was talking about some of the statements he made this morning,” Nunn said.

After the conversation with Nunn, Riley told Edwards he had kept all his promises.

“I gave you everybody you need, now I need you to come off the bridge and let’s go and get the warrant,” the police chief said.

That’s when Edwards decided to go with officers.

Police officers handcuffed Edwards and escorted him to a vehicle. Riley said the man underwent an evaluation.

“We don’t know what is the cause that brought it on,” Riley said. “A lot of that we will find out in debriefing. Our main concern is to get him some help.”