Officer hangs over 24 story building

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by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee police detective talks a man down from jumping off a 24 story building, despite his fear of heights.

When CBS 58 caught up with Milwaukee Detective Billy Ball, he showed us the building he had to hang over this summer out the window of an office. It's a view he never thought twice about until July 7.

"I get over here and I see a group of people over here on the building," said Ball. "I went from watching, to 'Billy, get over there, that's yours. Give him a hand."

The Milwaukee police officer was one of two men, the other was Special Agent Raymond Taylor, who helped talk the man down. He had climbed up the building and scaled down two stories and was barely holding on the ledge.

When Ball climbed up to the top himself he had to face not one but two adverse conditions: a huge thunderstorm and his fear of heights.

"I'm actually hanging over the ledge. Only half of my body is on the ground, the other half is hanging, looking down 20 stories and at him," said Ball.

A group of 25 other officers were helping out too. Some were holding Ball's belt to keep him from falling, but to Ball it was just him and the man.

"It kind of became a one on one thing with him as our eyes were looking at each other as we were trying to communicate," said Ball.

Communication was the biggest battle ball faced during the negotiation.

"He wasn't saying anything, said Ball. "We tried to encourage him that we were there for him and he'd look up into our eyes and look down."

After 30 minutes that felt like an eternity, Ball used the bad weather to convince the man not to jump and officers pulled him up to safety.

"I was very happy. You don't get that opportunity too much in life to save another person's life. I was very happy for a successful outcome," Ball said.

His efforts didn't go unnoticed. In November, The Milwaukee Police Department gave him the Medal of Valor for Rescue.

"A lot of other officers at the Milwaukee Police Department are trained to do it and we just try to do the best we can," said Ball, noting that they have a mandatory 40 hours of training in negotiations each year.

The biggest reward, though, isn't something tangible; it's the conversation Ball had with the man days after the rescue.

"He was very thankful and appreciative of what happened and he actually apologized to me for putting me in that situation," said Ball. "It was great having positive feedback, knowing you're making a difference in a person's life in a time of need."

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