San Jose standoff with man standing atop VTA light rail car ends peacefully

Bay City News
Friday, May 6, 2016
San Jose standoff with man standing atop VTA light rail car ends peacefully
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A major San Jose thoroughfare is back open after a 12 hour standoff with a man who was standing on the top of a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light-rail vehicle this morning.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After nearly 12 hours of being on the top of a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light-rail vehicle in North San Jose, a 25-year-old man on probation finally came down Thursday afternoon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Prunedale resident Kyle Lewis went down from the train at North First Street just south of Component Drive, Santa Clara County sheriff's Sgt. James Jensen said.

The man had climbed up the VTA vehicle around 1:20 a.m., Jensen said.

The incident caused major delays throughout the system through the morning and into the early afternoon. Transit agency officials checking the top of the train to make sure everything is OK before they turned the electricity back on, VTA spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross said.

It can take up to 30 minutes to power up the lines before service resumes, Hendler Ross said.

Earlier Thursday morning, the vehicle operator was heading back to the transit agency's Guadalupe maintenance yard after ending service for the night and stopped after seeing someone on the rail line, Hendler Ross said.

The operator then called the VTA operations control center to turn off the overhead electrical wires that generate 900 volts to stop the man from getting electrocuted as he went up the train, Hendler Ross said.

"It's an extremely dangerous thing for someone to do to climb up the train because of the electrification," she said.

Sheriff's deputies with crisis training immediately responded to the scene and initially spoke with Lewis before a crisis negotiation team arrived, Jensen said.

The Sheriff's Office called in Stephen Manley, the judge in charge of the county's Mental Health court. At this point, the Sheriff's Office isn't sure if this was related to mental health or if Lewis was under a drug induced psychosis

The team talked to Lewis from a cherry picker parked next to the train and others are on the platform adjacent to the vehicle, where two ladders were propped on the sides.

Lewis had been rambling and spitting at authorities when they first talked to him, but eventually became more "coherent," Jensen said. At one point he yelled that he wanted to mess up everyone's commute.

Lewis was shirtless and negotiators gave him a yellow blanket, Jensen said.

A mental health supervisor from the Santa Clara County Probation Department also came out to scene to speak to Lewis, he said.

Negotiators worked with probation supervisors to learn more about Lewis' background to build "rapport" with him, according to Jensen.

Lewis finally came down after being persuaded by a deputy who had arrested him last month, but officials aren't saying why.

"You know, you feel feel sorry for him, but what can we do? I mean it's a big inconvenience," Santa Clara resident Lynette Jackson said.

Investigators did not immediately know if Lewis was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Jensen said.

He was taken to a local hospital for an evaluation and if drugs are found in his system, they could book him into the county jail.

The disruption resulted in a shutdown of 50 percent of the light-rail system, Hendler Ross said.

The incident stopped trains from traveling north of the intersection, a major thoroughfare for the system to provide train service between the Mountain View and Baypointe stations, she said.

Bus shuttles were set up to take passengers along the affected area of the line.

Many people who worked nearby were stuck in traffic for up to 30 minutes, a frustrating morning for those who .

ABC7 News reporter Chris Nguyen contributed to this story.