Saving a Troubled Teen
On June 22, at around 2:30 p.m., Kevin Chen and his wife were driving to pick up their five-year-old daughter from school when he noticed a person sitting on the edge of a Highway 407 overpass at Markham Rd.
“He seemed very upset and distraught,” recalled Chen, who was in the passenger seat, noting the teen was perched on the overpass and had banged his head intentionally off a pole.
“I told my wife to pull over so I could inquire what was going on with him.”
As he got out of the car about 15 metres past the boy, he told her he may be preparing to jump, noticing now his feet dangling over the highway traffic and his arms bracing himself to push outward.
His wife dialled 9-1-1.
“As I moved closer towards him, and indicated I wanted to help him, he told me to leave him alone and that nobody understands him and he just wants to end his life,” he said, noticing the boy attempted to look across the bridge in what he believed to be an attempt to gauge oncoming traffic.
Chen said he seemed to be around 15 or 16 years of age.
Chen used the negotiator crisis resolution skills designed by Training Constable Mariano Bennincasa and delivered by former Court Training Officer Anthony Bossio to calm the young man down.
“I got to within three metres of him and repeated I was there to help him,” he said. “He just didn’t want to communicate with me. He told me he didn’t want to live anymore.”
A few minutes after Chen’s arrival, two York Regional Police scout cars arrived at the scene. One officer drove up and pulled within about 10 metres of the boy.
“One of the officers attempted to distract the male by telling him that someone wanted to talk to him,” said Chen, noting the calmness of the officer involved. “The distraction helped me to creep close enough to the point that I was able to grab him by the hand and shoulder and pull him to the ground with the help of one of the officers.”
The teenager was taken to hospital for treatment.
“I am glad that it ended well and, even after he was placed in handcuffs and taken away, I, along with the officer, reassured him that everything was going to be alright and he would get the help he needs.”
A Court Officer for six years, Chen aims to become a uniformed Toronto Police officer.
“The main reason I want to be a police officer is because I love helping people,” he said. “I am so happy that I was there to help that young man and give him a second chance at life.”
Peter Rampat, a training constable at the Toronto Police College, isn’t surprised that Chen helped to save a young man’s life.
“Since 2009, I have had the privilege of teaching him Japanese jiu jitsu methods, which focus on the ethical and professional control of persons in crisis,” said Rampat. Chen also helps Rampat as a volunteer at his jiu jitsu program for youth, where they are always mindful that young people can be experiencing distress and to act as mentors for them beyond simply teaching them the martial art.
Chen said Rampat and Bossio have taught him to be aware of people exhibiting signs that they want to harm themselves. In this case, the teenager was not only poised precariously at the bridge but attempting further self-harm by slamming his head against a light standard.
“In the past few years, Bossio taught him essential crisis communication techniques, which are vital for de-escalation. The combined use of these skills provided Kevin with the ability to safely influence and physically control a young man so he could get help. His skills and desire to save lives are certainly a benefit to the city.”