Down to earth

It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes you read an article in a newspaper that just defies belief. No, not the kind of overblown pomposity that UK readers have come to expect from the likes of AA Gill or Richard Littlejohn – I’m talking about the news stories that leave you scratching your head, and re-reading them to find the hidden meaning that you somehow managed to miss first time round.

Today produced one such story, as I satstood reading Metro on the train into work. Now I know I may have railed against Metro in the UK in the past, and rightly so. All I can say in my defence is that the New York edition doesn’t seem to rely quite so much on wire services, doesn’t have the irritating blue masthead, and – most importantly – isn’t owned by Associated Newspapers.

Anyway, in a short story on the inside front page was an intriguing but tragic tale of a man who had jumped off a building in Brooklyn. Sadly the Metro version isn’t available online, so I’m relying on AP for this account:

“An emotionally disturbed man armed with a candlestick confronted police in a 17th-floor apartment before crawling through a broken window onto a balcony and falling to his death, authorities said.

The incident occurred at about 6 a.m. Tuesday after the officers and ambulance workers responded to a report of an emotionally disturbed person at a couple’s high-rise apartment in Brooklyn.

Once inside, they found the 33-year-old Queens man, a friend visiting the couple, swinging a long candlestick, police said.

The man used the metal stick to smash a hole in a window pane, and a sergeant tried to subdue him by zapping him with a stun gun but missed, police said.

The man crawled through the hole and onto the balcony and fell to his death, they said. “

See what I mean? Clearly this is an utterly heartbreaking story, and sympathies go out to the family of the man, and indeed the couple who will be forever traumatised by the experience. But this report demands so many more questions than it provides answers.

1) Did the man bring the candlestick with him? The New York Post describes it as a metal candlestick, and another report offers that it was quite a lengthy affair. Did he just knock on the door of the couple and say that he’d brought them a present, or was this a spur-of-the-moment candlestick brandishing kind of thing?

2) It’s not clear whether he jumped with the candlestick, or left the present behind. Maybe I should be checking eBay?

3) How incredibly unlucky can this guy be? First off, he’s (understandably) labelled as emotionally disturbed, and the Post claim that he had a history of drug abuse. Again, mental problems and drug addiction are a terrible thing for any person to go through. Next, he finds himself being confronted by police because of whatever situation he’s got himself into with the aforementioned candlestick. Then he suffers the ill-fortune not only to leap to his death, but to be allowed to do so because a police officer didn’t quite get his aim right with a stun gun. I mean, I’ve got no desire to be blasted with 1000 volts of electricity, but if it stops me from jumping 17 floors to my death, I’ll probably give it a go.

4) I’m no expert, but I’m guessing that forcing a hole in the reinforced glass of a balcony, and then crawling through it to your death, takes more than a split-second. That glass would never break first time, for a start. What were the police doing during this time? Arguing over the stun gun-toting officer’s incompetence??

Here’s hoping that tomorrow’s newspapers provide some more answers.

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