Red Light Ball to feature two Grass Valley officers who saved man’s life (VIDEO) |

Red Light Ball to feature two Grass Valley officers who saved man’s life (VIDEO)

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union
Corporal Jesse Cloyd (left) and Officer Mel Bird received medals for their superior life saving efforts during Tuesday's Grass Valley City Council meeting. Bird, a new officer, also had his badge pinned during a ceremony.
Elias Funez/ |

For four harrowing minutes, the two Grass Valley Police Officers weren’t certain they could save the man’s life.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s going on first,” coaxed Corporal Jesse Cloyd. “We’ll start there.”

On June 20, 2017, in the heat of a Grass Valley summer day, a severely depressed 28-year-old man was contemplating jumping off the Empire Street/Highway 20 overpass.

“I just want to talk, dude,” Cloyd told the man. “That’s it.”

Cloyd had arrived on the scene first, followed by officer Mel Bird moments later.

“We closed our distance to him without agitating him any more than he was,” said Cloyd. “We had an ‘under our breath’ conversation that we were both going to run for it if he jumped.”

The man then leaped up on the railing and tried to lunge over the chain link fence.

“Get down, get down!” urged Cloyd.

“No man, leave me alone,” the man replied.

At that instant, Cloyd and Bird sprinted toward the man. Bird grabbed the man’s ankle and Cloyd grasped his wrist, and the two officers pulled him to safety.

“Why don’t you guys just leave me alone?” asked the despondent man.

Once safely back on the overpass sidewalk, Cloyd continued to keep his words calm and soothing.

“What’s your name, bud? I know you’re not fighting but I don’t want you to do this, OK? I don’t want you to jump.”

Leading the man toward their two patrol cars, Cloyd offered more comforting words.

“Let’s go where it’s nice and cool, OK?” said Cloyd. “Where it’s nice and cool and we’ll talk.”

The scene was recorded by Cloyd’s police body camera. It’s been viewed over 92,000 times and received more than 300 comments on YouTube. It’s been seen 93,000 times via the police department’s Facebook page, and received comments from all over the world offering congratulations and praise for the officers.

In honor of their heroism and quick thinking, the two officers will receive the Bill and Susan Drown Public Safety Award at the annual Red Light Ball hosted by the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council on Saturday.

“He seemed like someone who was distraught,” said Bird. “Then he turned toward the railing and tried to jump. If he had been able to jump, he would have died and he could have landed on a car or caused cars to crash.”

Bird prefers to give most of the credit to his fellow officer.

“The key to diffusing the situation was Jesse’s demeanor,” said Bird.

“We handle stressful situations on a daily basis; however, they vary with circumstance,” Cloyd said. “I’m a pretty level-headed guy anyway. It’s through experience and our training that we learn how to function while experiencing that high level of adrenaline.”

“When he turned toward the fence, we knew he was committed to jumping and we both ran straight toward him,” Bird said. “I grabbed his ankle and he lifted me off the ground. Jesse grabbed his wrist, and we were both struggling to keep him on our side of the fence.”

At the time of the incident, Cloyd had been on the police force four years. It was Bird’s first week on patrol as a solo officer.

“It’s impressive to the Chief (Alex Gammelgard) and me that a senior officer and a relative rookie both approached the problem in the same way,” said Grass Valley Police Department Captain Steve Johnson.

Earlier that year, GVPD officers had received a full day of Critical Incident Training that focused on dealing with subjects suffering from various forms and levels of mental or behavioral disorders.

“A large part of that training is ‘De-escalation Techniques’ that helps to bring a calmness and order to what can be highly volatile and unpredictable situations involving desperate people,” Johnson said. “We’re not just arresting bad guys. There really is that aspect of protect and serve.”

The man was detained but faced no criminal charges. He was later monitored and treated at a mental health facility until it was determined he was no longer a threat to himself or others.

“I saw him at the Hospitality House shortly after the incident and he thanked me,” said Bird. “I saw him again a month ago and he came up, shook my hand, and thanked me. He said things were going better for him.”

“I would do the same thing every single day if I could,” said Cloyd. “We want to do our job in the most effective and human way possible. We’re pretty humble folks. We’re not in it to be heroes. But it is nice to get recognition from time and time.”

“I’m honored they’re awarding us, but any officers in that situation would have done the same thing,” said Bird. “The guy was having a really bad day. I’m happy we could do that for him and give him a second chance.”

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at

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