Note: An update about this incident appears toward the bottom of this article.
A military veteran reportedly having a mental health crisis climbed on top of the metal bear sculpture at the downtown Berkeley BART plaza Saturday and refused to come down, community members reported.
The man climbed on top of the bear sculpture, which was installed in the plaza in March, sometime prior to 11:15 a.m.
Authorities taped off the area and were attempting to speak with the man to see how they could convince him to come down.
According to Charlie Verrette, who posted about the incident on Facebook around noon, the man was having a mental health crisis and had stopped taking his medication.
“I just spent 45 mins talking [to] and counseling a Coast Guard guy who is involved in a standoff with the Berkeley Police,” Verrette wrote. “A very nice young man, unfortunately off his medication and having difficulties. I couldn’t get him to get down but the Berkeley Police let me try and we did have a very nice conversation. He is military though and he might be up on the Bear for a while. A Mental Health Unit is on the way.”
Initially, the man appeared mostly nude to some observers, but other witnesses said he was wearing pants, as well as a T-shirt over his head.
Verrette wrote that police officers had let him try to speak with the man, and lauded them for their efforts.
“The cop on the right is a really nice guy,” he wrote (photo above). “Him and his partner gave me big props for getting involved. We can’t abandon our Veterans.”
Verrette continued, “When I think about it this is a perfect example of how law enforcement and citizens can work together. The young man btw, is an amputee and indeed needed supervision so he wouldn’t fall and really hurt himself.”
According to Verrette, the man said he wanted to stay on top of the sculpture for 29 days.
“The cop had this whole trippy rap about how time is artificial, etc. Very Berkeley,” he wrote. “Hope he comes down soon and safely.”
As far as why the man had climbed up on the sculpture, said Verrette, “He had some sort of Epiphany, not sure more than that.”
Wrote Jayson Elliot, in response to Verrette’s Facebook post, “I didn’t stick around long, but the cops were being very respectful and helpful. Hope everything turns out for the best.”
As of about 3 p.m., the man was still on top of the bear sculpture in downtown Berkeley.
The grizzly bear sculpture, called “Ursus Redivivus,” was installed in March at the downtown Berkeley BART plaza as a temporary piece of public art until the plaza is redesigned. Ursus Redivivus was made from escalator parts and created by local kinetic-sculpture artists Alex Nolan, Phillip Glashof and his son Chad.
Berkeleyside has requested information from the Berkeley Police Department and will update this post if it is provided.
Update, 6:55 p.m. Berkeley Police Sgt. Robert Rittenhouse said police were called at 9:30 a.m. for a report of a man sitting on top of the downtown plaza bear sculpture.
“Our concern was, and our priority was, for his safety,” he said. “We didn’t want him to get injured.”
Rittenhouse said he could not confirm any details about the man’s background or motivations due to privacy laws.
Police taped off the area around the sculpture to create a safe perimeter, and called in a CIT officer — a police officer who is specially trained in de-escalation techniques and dealing with mental health crises — a Special Response Team negotiator and a mental health counselor.
The Berkeley Fire Department erected a ladder in case the man decided to come down.
Around 3 p.m., said Rittenhouse, the man “came down on his own accord” and ultimately agreed to be checked out by paramedics and transported for medical treatment and an evaluation.
The man was not arrested, Rittenhouse said.