Above the Call

Correctional Officer headed for job interview talks down jumper

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications

With thoughts of a Sergeant interview running through his mind, Correctional Officer Ranato Benitez-Sanchez was heading to Ironwood State Prison when he spotted a woman sitting on an overpass, looking down at traffic. Pulling over to ask if she was OK, he soon realized she was contemplating suicide.

Officer stands near a flag pole.
Correctional Officer R. Benitez-Sanchez.

Tears streamed down the woman’s face as she shook her head “no” in response to him asking if she was OK. With cell phone in hand, he immediately called 911. The dispatcher told him the nearest officer was at least 20 minutes away.

Officer Benitez-Sanchez stayed with the woman and tried persuading her to come away from the edge. She continued shaking her head “no” and crying. He noticed a soft drink near her and asked if she’d like another, or maybe something to eat from the nearby gas station. Again, she shook her head no.

He continued talking to the distraught woman, edging closer to her as they spoke. He continued pleading with her to come off the bridge.

The woman suddenly stood.

“I thought she was going to fall,” he said. “I placed my hand around her arm and guided her away from the edge. Together we walked over to my parked car and I gave her a ride to the gas station where we waited for emergency responders.”

He asked why she was so upset and what made her consider jumping.

“My family abandoned me here. They took all my stuff, including my cell phone. I think I might be pregnant,” she told him.

Officer Benitez-Sanchez kept her calm and even managed to elicit a smile from her. When the CHP arrived, he briefed the officer on the situation and the woman’s emotional state. He then walked over to the female, shook her hand, and asked her to please take care of herself.

“Thank you,” she said, with a smile.

Benitez-Sanchez re-fueled his vehicle and continued on his way to his scheduled interview.