Memphis Police officer speaks after saving teen from attempted suicide

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — By now, many Memphians have seen the image of a Memphis Police Officer embracing a suicidal teen after talking him down from the edge of the I-40 bridge Thursday afternoon.

FOX13 spoke to that officer, who said it wasn’t her first time preventing a suicide, and unfortunately it won’t be her last. That’s because Officer Tina Shaw is part of MPD’s Crisis Intervention Team.

Shaw said she responds to mental health emergencies every day and is humbled by the praise.

“It’s outstanding,” Shaw said. “I’m not normally the type to like a lot of attention, but I thought it was a great thing.”

Shaw said her lieutenant was on the scene and called for a CIT officer. As she passed the line of cars backed up to the bridge, she started to pray.

“I ask for guidance, first and foremost,” she said. “I always ask for guidance and to help me understand, and allow me to help them.”

When she arrived, she found the bridge deserted on one side, save for police cars and a 17-year-old standing next to the edge of the iced-over bridge.

“That day, it was like a sheet of ice everywhere,” Shaw said. “It was just unbelievable to see him sitting over, face forward, on the ledge, alone.”

Shaw said she knew time was of the essence, because she feared the teen could slip on the ice or lose his balance due to the vibrations from a passing 18-wheeler, sending him over the side to near certain death. She approached him and started talking.

“At first, he was kind of standoffish. He didn’t want anyone to come to him. Just trying to break that barrier alone was kind of difficult,” she said. “I had to get personal, tell him who I was. I told him, ‘Hey, I’m a mom. I’m a mama, and I’m here to help you.’”

Shaw said she drew on her experience raising teenage sons and leveled with him, leading to him opening up.

“He was crying. You know how you can kind of see the fear in people’s eyes sometimes?” she said. “I saw the fear. He allowed me to get personal with him.”

She said the teen told her how he had recently become a father to a baby boy and about trouble at home.

Shaw said she spoke to him as he sat on the side of the bridge for 15 minutes, but time felt like it had slowed down.

“It felt like the clock was going by seconds instead of minutes. It was just, wow. It was unspeakable,” she said. “My tunnel vision was so up and I couldn’t think of anything else but get him down, get him down, get him down, help him.”

She finally convinced the teen to climb over the barrier to her and hugged him tight as he stepped back on solid ground.

“I just kept thanking God and I said, ‘Son, it’s going to be OK,’” she said. “‘It’s going to be alright.’”

She said throughout her 15 year career in law enforcement, she has helped three others who wanted to end their life on the bridge over the Mississippi River.

“It’s very intense. You have to be very focused and very patient. The main part of being a CIT officer is patience,” Shaw said. “Listening, understanding, being empathetic and allowing people to see that I’m human just like you.”

Shaw said the teen was taken to a facility.

She said she has since spoken with his mother, who told her how thankful she was for her efforts.

Anyone who would like to help out the teen’s family can contact MPD’s North Main station at 901-636-4099 and they will give you his mother’s Cash App information.