Police lieutenant finds common ground, talks ex-Marine off ledge

JOSEPH KACZMAREK / FOR THE DAILY NEWS Lt. Anthony Ginaldi, shown at a crime scene in 2012, found the common ground needed to save an ex-Marine's life.
JOSEPH KACZMAREK / FOR THE DAILY NEWS Lt. Anthony Ginaldi, shown at a crime scene in 2012, found the common ground needed to save an ex-Marine's life.
Posted: September 18, 2013

WHEN Philadelphia police Lt. Anthony Ginaldi was in a helicopter accident five years ago while working as a pilot in the Aviation Unit, he never knew that the crash would eventually help him save a life.

Then Ginaldi, a 25-year police veteran who now works in Olney's 35th District, came face-to-face with a former Marine on Sunday as the man stood on the ledge of Albert Einstein Medical Center's parking garage, seven stories above Old York Road, threatening to jump.

"He said . . . he got hurt in a helicopter crash over in Egypt," Ginaldi said yesterday. "When I was in Aviation and we were conducting training . . . we crashed our helicopter, so that's how I connected with this guy to develop a rapport with him."

It worked.

Ginaldi said he almost didn't believe it when he got the call shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday that the 37-year-old man was on the ledge. But the distressed ex-Marine was perched precariously on the edge when Ginaldi pulled up.

"I was pretty apprehensive. I've never had to talk a jumper down," Ginaldi said.

The lieutenant, who has not had formal negotiation training, said the distraught man at first refused to talk with him, but as he slowly moved closer and started to make conversation, he began to open up. Ginaldi's strategy, he said, was to be honest with the man and connect with him on any level he could.

"I told him, 'Look, man, I've got a family, I've got three kids. When I suffer a loss here at work, sometimes that loss gets transferred to my family and they understand that I suffer, and then my kids suffer,' " Ginaldi said. "[He] didn't want my kids to suffer. He said, 'I don't want the kids to be upset.' "

As the man stood on the sliver of cement outside a steel railing meant to keep cars from driving off the edge of the roughly 80-foot-tall garage, he told Ginaldi that he has nothing to live for - no job here and no family to speak of - and is in pain as a result of injuries he suffered in the chopper accident.

Ginaldi said that even as a veteran police officer, his heart pounded with fear the man would jump.

"I kept watching him. He would blink his eyes, and I kept thinking he was gonna open his eyes and he was gonna jump," Ginaldi said. "And he didn't."

Ginaldi and Sgt. Bob McKeever were ready to grab the man and pull him to safety if the conversation took a wrong turn, he said, but were grateful that it didn't come down to that.

After about a half-hour, Ginaldi, a former Army first lieutenant and paratrooper, finally persuaded the man to come back over the railing and allow Ginaldi and McKeever - who kept watch from a few feet away during the negotiation - to bring him to safety.

After the man agreed to come off the ledge, police took him to Einstein Crisis Response Center at Germantown for treatment.

"We didn't have to use force, just talked to this guy and got him to realize that his life, as much as he may feel it has no value, is valuable," Ginaldi said.

"Hopefully he'll get the help he needs."

Yesterday, 35th District commander Capt. Joe Fredericksdorf praised Ginaldi's heroic, quick-thinking actions.

Fredericksdorf said the common ground Ginaldi found with the man saved his life.

"Preserving life is the highest order of policing, so I appreciate what he did," he said.

"It's one of those things. Sometimes you can relate with people. I think sometimes people forget we're still human beings," police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said. "Twenty-five years of experience . . . and just life experience may have been what allowed him to be successful."

On Twitter: @morganzalot

Blog: PhillyConfidential.com

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