MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A chaotic situation on the bridge ended at 5:10 p.m. when police took a suicidal man into custody. The Ravenel Bridge opened back up after being shut down for almost four hours Thursday.
Police surrounded the man's SUV and took him into custody just minutes after he tried to drive off the bridge. All lanes have reopened after 38-year-old Phillip DeClemente was threatening to harm himself on the bridge. Traffic on Interstate 526, Highway 17 and I-26 was backed up for miles during the incident.
According to Charleston police, the suicidal man drove a white SUV onto the bridge with messages painted on it that say "Stay Away," "Back," "Happy Now" and "Game Over." Authorities say they received a phone call from family members that DeClemente was on the Ravenel Bridge threatening to harm himself.
Just after 5 p.m., the man began driving the SUV towards the edge of the bridge and into the wall. The door of the SUV then opened and police officers ran to the SUV and took him into custody. A police negotiator was used to help the man surrender.
No charges have been filed, but the investigation is ongoing.
"We talk to them," said Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis. "We have people trained in hostage situations. They're trained to talk to people to get them out of certain situations."
DeClemente was taken to MUSC for evaluation after the incident.
"We're just thankful that it ended peacefully," said Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis.
DeClemente is a former Charleston County rescue squad member. He was convicted of stalking in Jan. 2011. He was sentenced to time served. He won several awards with the rescue squad including a lifesaving award four times.
The SUV was parked sideways across the bridge lanes. A police negotiator was used. Police set up a safety zone around the scene. The bridge was shut down just before 3 p.m.
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.