Man who spent 25 hours atop 80-foot tree in downtown Seattle has come down

A man who sat perched atop an 80-foot tree in Downtown Seattle climbs down and is met by medics. (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE - A man who spent about 25 hours perched atop an 80-foot tree in Downtown Seattle has come down safely.

The man climbed down just after 11:40 a.m., just over a day later than when he began his ascent that became a worldwide internet event.

As onlookers cheered and chanted "Man In Tree" - in deference to the Twitter hashtag by which he became known - he sat down near the base of the conifer and appeared to be chomping on a piece of fruit. Officers initially kept their distance, but soon approached the man, got him on a gurney and took him for a medical evaluation at Harborview Medical Center.

"We were very glad we were able to work with him and get him out safely," said Patrick Michaud with Seattle Police.

Authorities were alerted to the unidentified man in the tree around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"Issue appears to be between the man and the tree," Seattle police tweeted.

Crews brought a ladder truck to the scene, next to the Macy's store at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Stewart Street, after receiving reports about the man stuck in the upper branches of the towering tree, just after 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The fire truck's ladder was extended to within a few feet of the man, then negotiators climbed up and tried to speak with him.

He steadfastly refused to come down, spending the entire night in the treetop.

Earlier, the man threw an apple at medics who came to his rescue. The man was also seen tossing small branches, orange peels, pine cones and other materials at rescuers and claimed to be armed with a knife, Seattle police said. He later requested a pack of Camel Crush cigarettes.

A KOMO news team at the scene said the man appeared agitated, shouting and "flipping the bird" at spectators. Surrounding witnesses questioned the man's mental health, while others speculated he may be high on drugs. He appeared disheveled with a large beard, longer hair and a red knit hat he dropped during the day.

Seattle police officials said they were going to take it slow with the man.

"Initially there were threats made toward officers and at one point he mentioned he had a knife and we wanted to make sure that we were able to work with him and help to make sure he would remain safe and there was no chance of him accidentally falling out of the tree," Michaud said.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the man had stripped the top of the tree bare. He tore the limbs off and hurled them at officers and firefighters. Even as darkness fell Tuesday evening, the man remain perched at the top. His ordeal lasted until late Wednesday morning.

At one point, the man climbed about halfway down the tree, paused, then climbed all the way back to the top, breaking off new branches during the trip. His behavior alternates between periods of quiet calm and agitated yelling.

A drone zoomed by during the early morning hours, but it quickly left and has not returned.

Michaud said police want to make sure the man can get down without hurting himself or someone else and added that rushing him could create a dangerous situation.

"When you try to force somebody of a situation like that, you risk knocking him out of the tree, even accidentally and that's something we obviously don't want to do," Michaud said.

Michaud explained even trying to put up a net or inflatable mats carried risks.

"In a situation where you have someone who's highly agitated and the additional presence of people is making him more agitated, you kind of want to limit that opportunity to him to become angrier and angrier and risk the possibility of something tragic happening," he said. 'If the presence of people in that area, either to erect that net or put that inflatable thing down there makes him angrier, it becomes more of risk than a help. He was fairly stable up there he lasted the entire day up there, so by putting somebody up there to put a net out there or something like that, you're risking his safety at that point."

Now that the man is down, Michaud said the man's well-being was the primary focus and he doesn't face any criminal charges.

"No, right now we're more concerned on getting him the mental help that he needs and the physical help that he needs, and as that process happens, we can work with prosecutors if that's the resolution that needs to be taken," Michaud said. "But at this point, that's not our key goal."

Meanwhile on the Internet, #ManInTree went viral on Twitter becoming a trending hashtag nationwide. KOMO's live stream of the entire event had tens of thousands across the Northwest and the world riveted to their computer and phone screens as the drama unfolded. An anonymous user even created, and was tweeting from, the Twitter handle "@Man_in_Tree".

At the scene, many passers-by, seeming bemused by the man's antics, pulled out their cellphones Wednesday to snap pictures of his silhouette, accentuated by a long, bushy beard, against the gray morning sky.

Janice Wilson, who was in town from Crescent City, California, to help her son deal with his own mental health and legal troubles, said she was once homeless herself, 30 years ago. She repeatedly shouted up to the man: "We love you! Come down safely!"

"I heard people out here laughing," she said. "If somebody's in crisis to the point of putting himself at risk of suicide, what's to laugh about? I just pray those branches don't break."

The iconic tree was planted at the site in the 1970s and was the focus of an ambitious effort to save it about six years ago after its condition deteriorated. The city injected the soil around the tree with compost to help it thrive, and an arborist was brought in to help it's health as well.

Seattle DOT officials say they will review the health of the tree once the ordeal is over with.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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