COLORADO SPRINGS — In the best case scenario, when a person finds themselves in crisis, a first responder is there, too, doing what they can to keep everyone safe.

It’s a difficult job, made more daunting by the possibility that it won’t work.

“We don’t want to make a mistake,” said Deputy Ricardo Garcia. He’s been with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for eight years.

Garcia and several other deputies were put to the test earlier this month when passersby noticed a woman standing on the South Academy overpass bridge, that spans Highway 115, during the morning rush to work.

She was standing too close to the rail, callers told dispatch. She may even have had one leg over the rail.

Garcia had never seen this woman before, but as he approached her, he instantly began to strategize how his team could ensure her safety, without the advantage of being able to plan ahead.

His voice wavered slightly.

“I think I was only able to say that she was very important,” Garcia said. “That she was needed, or, you know, someone was there for her.”

When asked whether saying that to a woman he’d never seen before was difficult he said no, “they’re a person. Someone loves them.”

And what he said made a difference.

“He just did an amazing job,” said EPSO Sergeant Jason Garrett. “Just to see him instantly realize, ‘I need to connect with this person very quickly.'”

While Garcia spoke to the woman, another deputy rushed to Hwy. 115, the road below, to try to stop the traffic.

“She was,” Garcia hesitated for a moment. “She was sad. She was pretty adamant that she wanted to jump off the bridge.”

It was a difficult moment for that woman, made even more tenuous when considering the cars below.

“We don’t want her to jump, not only for her safety,” Garrett offered. “But it could be catastrophic for [those drivers] as well.”

So Garcia was careful as he moved closer to the woman, drawing on the Crisis Intervention Training he’d completed a few years prior.

“Her legs were shaking,” Garcia said. “She was shaking her head, saying she wanted the wind to blow her off the bridge. And it happened so fast.”

The woman, he said, turned her body away from him and began to fall.

“I just kind of had no choice,” he said. “I grabbed her from under her arms and lifted her over.”

She was safe.

Utimately, the woman was taken to the hospital for evaluation and, per EPSO policy, will be assigned to a clinician with the Behavioral Health Connect Unit (BHCON), who will provide resources and next steps.

At this point, not every deputy has been through CIT training, but Garcia say he’s thankful he has. He says the training has changed his approach – and not just when responding to someone in crisis.

“You listen a lot more, rather than trying to talk and figure it out,” he said. “If you just sit back and listen, you’ll understand a lot.”