Man cited for reckless driving in Ravenel bridge incident

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Charleston police cited a 38-year-old man with reckless driving after he threatened to kill himself by driving his car off the Arthur Ravenel Bridge on Thursday.

Authorities took Phillip DeClemente into custody following a standoff that shut down both lanes of the Ravenel bridge Thursday afternoon. A charge of damage to public property is pending against DeClemente as well.

According to investigators, the FBI went to DeClemente's house during the incident and found an open door and a smoke grenade inside.

After DeClemente was taken into custody, a robot was used to check the vehicle. Police say they located a fireworks smoke grenade that "looked real from a distance," a small pepper spray container, and a larger pepper spray container found in the rear of the vehicle.

Investigators say the SUV had words written on it that said "Stay away," "Happy now," "Game Over" and the name of a man who filed a restraining order against DeClemente. DeClemente had in turn sought a restraining order against that man.

Police swarmed the bridge Thursday afternoon after they say DeClemente threatened to kill himself by driving his car off the bridge. According to Charleston police, the suicidal man drove a white SUV onto the bridge.

The Ravenel Bridge opened to traffic around 5:10 p.m. after being shut down for nearly four hours.

"It was chaotic. The police were just swarming the area," said John Newland. "I feel bad for the guy and hope he's okay. It's been a crazy, chaotic afternoon."

During the afternoon ordeal, motorists at the top of the bridge were evacuated from their cars. Police went back and forth and gave the drivers water and took some back to East Bay Street to use the bathroom.

"We're just thankful that it ended peacefully," said Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis.

DeClemente was a former Charleston County volunteer rescue squad member, but has not been an active member for at least a year. Last year, he was arrested and charged with stalking, assault and battery.

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