Man Jumps to his Death at Powell and Market

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News

Published on February 17, 2010 with 53 Comments


An SFPD officer points to a 4th-floor loft apartment located at Market and Powell streets
from where a man dressed in blue shorts leapt to his death yesterday.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

February 17, 2010

A man dressed in blue shorts committed suicide yesterday when he jumped from the top floor of a 4-story building above Forever 21 located at Powell and Market streets.

According to police, the man leapt to his death from a loft apartment at approximately 3:25 pm in full view of shoppers and tourists lined up to take the Powell Street cable car.

A specially trained police negotiator arrived on scene at approximately 3:15 pm but was unable to effectuate a rescue – the man had locked the door from the inside to the apartment.

Several witnesses said some bystanders were calling from the street to urge the man to jump.

“Some people in the back were yelling at him to jump,” said eyewitness Nick LaMonica. “They just said it once – it wasn’t like people were chanting it or anything.”

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • http://www.geocities.com/gruaudemais/confetti_page.html Robert B. Livingston

    Bystanders calling to urge the man to jump; one of them may as well pulled a trigger.

    What makes people behave like this?

    The world in general seems to grow ever more vulgar and heartless, and San Francisco along with it.

    Why is this so?

  • toptom

    This should show you how the crowd was… look at these pics taken by bystander:
    http://i46.tinypic.com/1h2yrb.jpg

  • Karen B.

    I know it’s news, but are photos of the body really necessary? I once saw a friend in a body bag on the news and have never quite felt the same about the issue since. If I was that disgusted/saddened/appalled, I can’t imagine how her family felt or how this guy’s family might feel.

  • http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/author/luke/ Luke Thomas

    Karen B, there are no photos of the body, but one can assume there’s a body inside the body bag or beneath the yellow tarp.

    Your question brings up the debate about photos of military services personnel returning to the US in coffins and body bags. Should these photos also be censored?

  • wfwilsonsf

    Luke,
    I don’t know whether you missed Karen B’s point or are deliberately trying to divert attention with your answer. Unless you are trying to argue that joining the military is suicide the situations are no way analogous. I think the point Karen was trying to make, and one I agree with is that if someone you know or loved has committed suicide then you view these incidents with something more than the “objectivity” of a journalist. Your argument that the photos only show a tarp or a body bag are insensitive at best and seem rather cruel. I know, as Karen understands and I hope you as journalist might come to understand that this person has a family that will for the rest of their life be left with an empty void and a question that will never be answered, “Why?”
    Before I am accused of censorship let me ask one simple question, when you decide to run a story on a suicide instead of a MUNI accident, are you censoring MUNI? I don’t think so I think you are using your editorial judgment about what news to cover. Do the photos of the body bag and the tarp add more to the story than the hurt and pain they cause? We might never answer that question in the same way, but I hope that you at least consider the question.
    Yes, I speak from personal experience. Almost twenty five years ago my older brother took his own life. An editor of the local paper saw fit to put on the front page not only the method my brother used but the exact location where it took place. In a discussion I had with the editor she echoed the same kind of denial. When I said that police had pictures because they made my sister-in-law wait for two hours before they moved the body, the editor expressed shock that I would think that they would use a picture. I explained that a picture wouldn’t have done any more damage than the sentence, “He hung himself from the third rafter in the barn on his farm.”
    I say to you Luke, the same thing I said to that editor.There is no way to undo the damage already done. All I can ask is if you are put in the same situation again, you give consideration to the fact that you are causing pain.

  • http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/author/luke/ Luke Thomas

    wfwilsonsf, thank you for your thoughtful post. I initially struggled with the thought of posting these pics, but ultimately did so because I hoped the pics will act, however small, as a deterrent to anyone considering suicide.

    The issue also raises the question about censorship, but on balance I agree that the pics may unnecessarily cause a suicide decedent’s family undue pain – and I apologize for that.

    I will certainly keep the points you have made in mind should I be confronted with the same censorship vs. sensitivity dilemma.

  • Hope Johnson

    Censorship for sensitivity purposes is, indeed, a difficult decision for journalists.

    A significant factor in the decision is defining “sensitive” and recognizing motives for the chosen definition. For example, wfwillsonsf’s argument that photos and articles on suicides is insensitive makes the assumption all families of suicide deaths do not know why their loved one took his or her own life. Not so. Someone close to my family died by suicide. We were sad but no one wondered why. He had many drug problems and had attempted suicide before.

    The point is not whether photos or words about the scene are insensitive. The point is that the definition of “sensitive” is vague and the motive arbitrary, leaving it open to dangerous interpretation and uses. While wfwillsonsf’s motivation seems noble, his definition of “sensitive” does include his own assumptions. The danger is we do not know how someone else with more power to shut down the media will choose to define “sensitive” or whether that definition will be chosen for a noble or manipulative cause.

    President Bush’s spokesperson did state the motivation for not allowing photos of military coffins was that “the sensitivity and privacy of families of the fallen must be the first priority.” But we are all also aware that those photos may have changed the public’s support for the undeclared war, not something Bush wanted.

    The price of a free society is we will disagree on what is fit to print. The benefit is the info is available and the reader is free to avert his or her eyes.

  • dmh

    Hope, I think it is you who may have missed the point. This comes down to the concept of truth in reporting, not the ‘vague definition of sensitivity’. What in this story is news? And where is the line that crosses from solid, honest reporting into the unnecessary and possibly exploitive?

    It could be argued that the story here is that a man jumped from a building in a high profile location. Also that there was a shocking response from some in the crowd. Reading the story will be awful for anyone who knew this man. The second part of this story is going to be particularly painful as they imagine their loved one’s final moments. But I would agree that it warrants reporting as it reflects an ugly mirror on a part of our society that either had an inappropriate mob-fueled response, or is completely soul-less.

    This story could still be told with only the last of these four pictures. Did we really need 3 images of the body (even covered)? Is this not contributing to the callousness that caused the behavior at the scene?

    Luke’s response to wfwilsonsf was honest and directly addressed the issues. It can not be easy to be a reporter in these times. I was there and can also tell you that there are things that Luke refrained from mentioning that shows discretion.

    This has nothing to do with war or censorship.

  • Hope Johnson

    dmh – The issue is neither war nor suicide but the need for caution when you attempt to chastise the press into not publishing something based on a definition that can (and will) be used as a reason not to publish something else the politically powerful or corrupt do not want you to see.

  • dmh

    I could not agree with you more if that were, indeed, the crossroads where we stand in this discussion. But it isn’t. This is not about power or politics. This is merely is a society self regulating- asking itself, as all societies should- is this the direction we really want to go?

    We are citizens talking to each other about the humanity, validity and value of an act vs the desire (and obligation) of the press to tell a story. That’s all. And I believe it is not only healthy, but warranted in this case.

    I appreciate your thoughtful responses, but I simply feel like you’re addressing another topic. At any rate- thanks for the discourse.

  • Kathie Yount

    “Fog” 
    By Kathie Yount, 
    suicide prevention activist”‘Some people in back were yelling at him to jump,’ said eyewitness Nick LaMonica. ‘They just said it once – it wasn’t like people were chanting it or anything,'” Fog City Journal reporter Luke Thomas shares in “Man Jumps to His Death at Powell and Market.”The remark, mathematically impossible, obfuscates like thick fog, confounding its own semantics:  since “some” and “they” are plural, the man experiencing a medical emergency at Hallidie Plaza on 2-16-10 clearly heard “Jump!” more than one time before he left his narrow ledge above Forever 21 unless “some” or “they” yelled in union.More observant might be TOPTOM, a witness and second poster at that same Fog City Journal site.  He proffers his pics with this caveat, “This should show you how the crowd was…look at these pics taken by a bystander,” the pics long since flagged from mainstream sources by those outraged at such cruelty.Yet, deeply embedded within the internet bowels,the insidious picsphotoshopped together as a comicremain.The comic has a secretvisceral existence of its own.It is louder, more audiblethan words,and it cutsthrough fogwith the precision ofan atmospheric exacto knife.There are tapes, too,that provewhat he heard.

  • Kathie Yount

    Sorry about the poem below.  The comment system would not allow the line arrangement I wanted and ran words together when I posted it.  It doesn’t change my meaning, but it does make the poem difficult to read.  I do not know how to delete it either, but I will post this poem on Beto Mooncricket Lopez’s Flickr page, “How could this happen? San Francisco Powell Street Jumper, R.I.P. Dylan God Bless.”  
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mooncricketfilms/4363792831

    I am Dylan Yount’s mother, and I am finding my voice.

  • Kathie Yount

    “To the City Where My Son Was Disrespected” By Kathie Yount, suicide prevention activist             

    Poem posted at    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mooncricketfilms/4363792831                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                                                           

  • Kathie Yount

    “Who Will Answer?”
    By Kathie Yount,
    suicide prevention activist

    is written in comment # 46 on “How Could This Happen?  San Francisco Powell Street Jumper RIP Dylan God Bless,” located at this URL address: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mooncricketfilms/4363792831/

  • Kathie Yount

    “My Lying Eyes”
    By Kathie Yount,
    suicide prevention activist

    is posted at “Crowd Cell Phones” at
    http://www.flickr.com/mooncricketfilms/4380211300/

  • Kathie Yount

    In a forum about NYC police ignoring a street fight, one poster brags that 50% of an Australian crowd would have intervened.  Then this tragic boast:  “In Australia, do they chant ‘jump’ when people look to commit suicide from the top of buildings?  I didn’t think so!  America, # 1!!!”  The Australian then asks, “Is that for real?  People do that??”   

    The responder offers the Instablog link “San Francisco crowd encouraged suicide victim to jump then laughed” (link in forum)  plus two others.  He said he found 3 examples on Google in less than a minute. The 9-3-12 forum date is 939 days after Dylan’s death.  Link: 
    http://www.mixedmartialarts.com/mma.cfm?go=forum.posts&thread=2055449&forum=1&page=1&pc=20How sad that some take national pride in state-sanctioned suicide baiting.  

  • Kathie Yount

    Sorry for the mistake below.  My poor math skills are legendary!  

    The Mixed Martial Arts Underground Forum was posted on 9-3-12 all right, but that date would reflect Dylan’s suicide baiting death NIne hundred twenty-NINE days ago.  Today, 9-13-12, marks the 939rd day after.  

    The idea that some would take national pride in suicide baiting while police just look on was the point I was trying to make.  The MMA Forum, by the way, includes a video of the NYC incident that caused the writer to think of suicide baiting in relation to police not intervening. 

  • Kathie Yount

    939TH day following my son’s suicide baiting.

  • Kathie Yount

    “The Culling”
    By Kathie Yount,
    suicide prevention activist
    is posted at Nick Fisher’s Flickr site, “Man Jumps at Powell and Market” at
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobrasick/4365057088/

  • Kathie Yount

    “The Man with a Megaphone”
    By Kathie Yount,
    suicide prevention activist
    is posted on artyflipy’s Flickr site, “Tender Square Gathering” at
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/artyflipy/4374188604/