A TSA manager happened to be in the right place at the right time after having a gut feeling something was wrong as he drove to work at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW).
Around 3:45 a.m., Clinton Shrum passed a man who was standing on a roadway ramp bridge near a parking garage on the airport grounds. Something didn’t seem right, so Shrum circled back to assess the situation.
“I saw a man standing on the bridge looking down,” Shrum recalled. “He appeared to be depressed based on how he was standing. I thought to myself, ‘There was nowhere to park. It was 3:45 a.m., and there was no reason why anyone should be on this roadway looking down from the bridge.’ I felt it was an anomaly.”
It could have been complete disaster had Shrum not shown up when he did. He pulled his car about 25 yards from the man, turned on his car’s blinkers and called 911.
“I called Wayne County Airport Police to report the man standing at the location,” said Shrum. “I had a bad feeling he might commit suicide.”
Shrum admitted he was nervous as he approached the man.
“I didn’t want to scare him, but at the same time, I was thinking about a contingency plan if police didn’t arrive on time. When I approached him, he was staring on the ground with his hands hanging over the bridge. The subject didn’t notice me. It appeared he was focused on what he was about to do.”
Shrum said he turned on his hazard lights in case he had to wrestle the man to the ground.
“I ensured there was enough room for me to do what I had to do until police got there,” he noted. “After I noticed a rope in his hands, I communicated that information to the dispatcher, saying (the rope) had a noose on it. I thought to myself, ‘If he puts the noose around his neck, I will have to bum-rush him to tackle him to the ground, and I was not going to let him do that in my presence.’”
Fortunately, police quickly arrived, pulling up to the scene just as the man was raising the rope to threaten himself. Officers immediately de-escalated the situation.
This is the third time Shrum saved a life since joining TSA.
“Maybe it’s an act of God that I was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “I used to be a firefighter and worked on the county hazardous materials team, so when it comes to emergencies, I’m very well trained.
Shrum also credits his TSA training to help him handle these types of emergencies.
“We are trained on the adage, ‘if you see something, say something,’” Shrum explained. “This is exactly why I called police. If it turned out not to be anything, then no harm was done. I responded the way I did because I didn’t know if he had a weapon, and I didn’t want to put my life in danger. I made the decision and tried to give the police dispatcher an exact description of where I was and gave them details of what was going on.”
Michigan TSA Federal Security Director Reggie Stephens was impressed but not surprised by Shrum’s heroic actions.
“Clinton’s courage and actions are a reflection of his outstanding character and how much he cares about people,” said Stephens. “We are fortunate to have leaders like Clinton at TSA, because through their everyday contributions, they make us better as an agency.”
Shrum, though, downplays his response.
“I consider myself a caring person who watches his surroundings and the body languages of others,” Shrum replied.
He believes it’s a good reminder for all of us to watch our surroundings at all times.
“If something doesn’t seem right, then it probably isn’t,” emphasized Shrum. “Call 911.”
“Mental health is a huge problem in our country,” Shrum added. “There aren’t enough doctors to help out. I’m glad this incident turned out the way it did, and he can now get the help he needs.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For anyone in emotional distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis, dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The full number (1-800-273-8255) is also available. Callers are connected to trained counselors who listen, provide support and connect them to additional resources.
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs