As the teen dangled from a bridge, Shawnee Police Officer John Nahrebeski’s fists gripped the back of the boy’s Carhartt jacket. And gripped. And gripped.
“A million things go through your mind,” Nahrebeski said.
Would the jacket hold, would he lose his footing, how would he get the teen up?
It was raining Thursday morning when Nahrebeski was dispatched to the Lind Road bridge over Shawnee Mission Parkway west of Interstate 435. A teenager was near the rail.
Nahrebeski hollered out his patrol car window, but the teen ignored him. He got out, walked toward him. The teen moved closer to the rail.
The cop yelled for him to come back. The teen did, but then he went back to the rail. Looked down.
He’d step away, then back to the rail. Look down again. He’s thinking about jumping, Nahrebeski knew.
“He wouldn’t let me get anywhere near him,” Nahrebeski said.
The teen was saying something, but Nahrebeski couldn’t hear. The rain, his patrol car, noise from Shawnee Mission Parkway below — it was all too loud.
Nahrebeski saw an opening. Telling the teen he needed to come closer to hear him, Nahrebeski was able to get within five yards of the pacing teen.
“He kept looking at the edge of the bridge and over the bridge rail,” Nahrebeski said.
Nahrebeski doesn’t remember if he made the first move or the teen did. But as the teen bolted toward the guardrail, Nahrebeski lunged after him, hoping to take him to the ground.
Nahrebeski tripped but caught the teen’s ankles. Maybe having second thoughts, the teen grabbed onto the bridge with one hand.
“I had just enough time to get a hold of his jacket,” Nahrebeski said. “I just held on.”
Sgt. Sam Larson and Officer Rob Stotts arrived soon after and helped Nahrebeski hold the teen.
While rain soaked his grip, Nahrebeski’s thoughts flew. He yelled to Officer Andy VanMeerhaeghe to pull his car under the bridge. If we drop him, he’ll land on something softer than pavement, Nahrebeski thought.
By the time the patrol car was parked beneath the teen, Nahrebeski was able to spot a Deffenbaugh truck on the I-435 exit ramp to Shawnee Mission Parkway. Still gripping the teen, Nahrebeski yelled to Matt Hashagen, an off-duty officer who had stopped on his way to Lowe’s, to get the truck under the bridge.
Hashagen ran about a third of a mile to the truck.
Nahrebeski, Larson and Stotts lowered the teen about four feet to the truck as officers Hashagen and Terry Kegin caught him.
In all, Nahrebeski guesses he was holding the 5-foot, 10-inch, 145-pound teen for five to 10 minutes.
The teen was taken to a mental hospital. Nahrebeski doesn’t know how he is doing.
Since Thursday Nahrebeski has fielded media calls and the congratulations of his fellow officers.
“I know it’s a cliché and we always say it, but it’s what we signed on to do,” Nahrebeski said. “You never know what you’re going to get from day to day.”