Authorities, family friend talk man off Willits roof |

Authorities, family friend talk man off Willits roof

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

BASALT – A nerve-racking incident ended peacefully at the Willits Town Center Thursday evening when a young man voluntarily came off a 40-foot high roof after threatening to jump for nearly two hours.

The 20-year-old Basalt man sat and stood on the ledge of the building that is home to El Korita and Smoke restaurants starting at 5 p.m. He was obviously distraught – at times sitting with his head in his hands and other times yelling obscenities.

At one time he yelled, “All work and no play makes [me] ——- crazy.”

Basalt police and firefighters were on the roof with the man but they kept their distance from him and could be heard offering to help him in any way they could. Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor said the emergency responders on the roof never considered trying to rush and secure him for fear it would go afoul.

“Oh, yeah, you don’t pressure him,” O’Connor said. “You try to talk them away from the edge and to a comfortable place.”

Officers credited Basalt Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Peetz for putting the man in contact with an Aspen Hope Center counselor via cell phone. A counselor from the suicide prevention organization was soon on the scene and on the roof talking to the man, but he remained at the edge.

The man appeared to perk up when family friend Leonard “Bo” Bokenko arrived on the scene. Bokenko talked to him for several minutes from a distance and eventually suggested they get off the roof. The young man stepped away from the edge and embraced Bokenko. They came off the roof at 6:50 p.m. without further incident. He was taken into protective custody and taken to Aspen Valley Hospital for evaluation, according to authorities.

Bokenko, several years the young man’s elder, downplayed his role after the incident.

“I’m not really a hero. I just went up and bullshitted with him,” he said. “He’s a pretty good kid. He’s just having some problems.”

Authorities said the young man was commiserating about a number of issues while on the roof. O’Connor said it was not believed the man was drunk or under the influence of drugs. He lived in the Triangle Park Lofts building with his mom, according to authorities.

Sgt. Stu Curry of the Basalt Police Department also lives in the building. He was off duty but notified by another officer at about 5 p.m. of a call about a man on the roof on the building yelling obscenities. Curry went to the roof and found the man on the edge of the roof and alerted authorities about a possibly suicidal party.

Businesses at the building remained open during the incident, but firefighters and officers closed the streets and whisked pedestrians into the restaurants quickly and out of the area when they exited.

There were a varying number of onlookers throughout the incident. Those remaining cheered when the young man stepped away from the edge. Curry said the man who originally reported the incident stuck around until the young man came off the roof. The reporting party gave the other man a hug when he was safely down. It was an excellent example of the compassion that people show one another in difficult times, Curry said.