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Tow truck driver helps to talk down man standing on edge of overpass

Man standing on the edge of the Route 1 overpass over 15th Street S. in Crystal City

(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) A tow truck driver helped to defuse a tense situation in Crystal City yesterday (Wednesday) morning.

Police were dispatched to the area for a man standing on the edge of a Route 1 overpass. It was unclear why the man was standing there, but there was concern that he might jump to the roadway below.

Video shared with ARLnow, below, shows the shirtless man gesticulating wildly while standing above 15th Street S. A police source told ARLnow that a driver with Advanced Towing stopped and “talked this guy down.”

Reached via email, Advanced owner John O’Neill confirmed the report.

“One of my drivers… noticed a man [who] walked out on an overpass,” he said. “Ryan called 911 but approached the man and talked him into not doing anything dumb.”

Police were later able to catch up with the man and get him help. A police spokeswoman described the incident as a “mental health call for service.”

“At approximately 9:26 a.m. on June 29, an off-duty officer observed a man walking along northbound Richmond Highway,” Arlington County Police Department Public Information Officer Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Additional calls to the Emergency Communications Center stated the man was standing near the edge of the overpass in the area of 15th St. S. and S. Eads St. The individual subsequently left the area and was located by responding officers in the Crystal City Shops.”

Advanced Towing is arguably the most frequently criticized local business in Arlington, earning the ire of locals for its ruthless efficiency in towing unauthorized vehicles in private parking lots (and, occasionally — allegedly — damaging vehicles in the process). An incident with then-ESPN reporter Britt McHenry made national news and there’s even a website devoted to calling the company a “fraud.”

A lawsuit by former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called Advanced “predatory” and accused it of “illegal” tows. O’Neill later told ARLnow that he felt “vindicated” when the case only resulted in a $750 fine, asserting that Advanced only tows vehicles that are parked illegally.

O’Neill said Wednesday’s incident shows that Advanced’s reputation does not match its true character.

“We are always cast in a negative light but if my driver had not been doing his job this man may have hurt himself,” he said. “I’m really proud of my employee for intervening.”

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911 or the Arlington Dept. of Human Services’ emergency services line at 703-228-5160. CrisisLink also has a 24-hour crisis hotline at 703-527-4077 or 800-SUICIDE, or via text at 703-940-0888.