A man who might be a graffiti tagger and whom authorities are treating as possibly suicidal prompted the California Highway Patrol to shut down both sides of California's main freeway at rush hour in East Los Angeles today, officials said.
An L.A. County Sheriff's Department sergeant told us the man, seen perched on a 5 freeway sign support, was being treated as possibly suicidal. Images from the scene show that L.A. County Fire Department first responders have set up an inflatable device on the roadway below in case the man jumps or falls.
Both sides of the 5 freeway near Olympic Boulevard were shut down:
CHP Officer Kerri Rivas says the agency responded to the situation about 3:40 p.m. and shut down northbound lanes at the South Downey Road overpass, on which the man was seen, near Olympic Boulevard.
Southbound lanes were closed 8 minutes later, she said.
"At this point we have both sides of the freeway shut down," she said. "We did have a Sig-Alert at 4:02 p.m. for an unknown duration. We're letting commuters know to avoid the area and find alternate routes."
Southbound drivers were being diverted at Indiana Avenue and Ditman Avenue, Rivas said. Northbound motorists were being diverted at the 710 freeway, she said.
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The sheriff's sergeant told us that the man on the sign "may have been" a tagger "initially," but that now "we're treating it as an individual who may be suicidal."
[Update at 10:48 p.m.]: Authorities cut a hole in a fence and grabbed the man about 7 p.m. The freeway was reopened afterward. He was reportedly put on a 72-hour "psych hold."
His sister appeared on Fox 11 News and apologized for her brother.