Man Falls to Death Downtown

Last night, an unidentified man fell three stories to his death on the Downtown Mall, several readers report witnessing. Jackson Landers, who was sitting in the Miller’s cafe at the time, says that at approximately 10:35pm, he heard the sound of breaking glass overhead. He looked behind him to see the man falling, facing upwards, and heard him hit the ground next to the Hamilton’s cafe. Several witnesses rushed to aid him, but he was determined to have died at the scene. The usual media outlets (Daily Progress, WINA, WVIR) have reportedly not offered any coverage on this thus far, so nothing more is known at this time. 09/15 Update: The Daily Progress identifies the victim as 19-year-old William Dean in an uncredited article. Dean lived in a loft in that buiding; his father owns Terry Dean’s Dance Studio on the second floor. Sgt. Farruggio says that “he either fell or he jumped.”

18 thoughts on “Man Falls to Death Downtown”

  1. I was not there, All I know is what I read here.

    I think perhaps this man did not choose to do this. 30 feet is not high enough to kill yourself reliably. More than half of the people who fall that far survive.

    Also, what does facing up mean? Back-first or feet first? Sounds like back-first from the description of the injuries. Who would run through a window backwards with sufficient force to break it? Or did he summersault?

  2. I just watched WVIR’s 11pm broadcast. They told me that a man had been shot last night on Estes. That an ex-student is suing UVa over accusations of honor code violations. That a big storm is coming up from the Gulf. That weather happened, it is now happening, and it will continue to happen. That West Nile viruses cases are increasing in the state. That some Americans have been arrested for allegedly having ties to Al-Queda. That Albemarle firefighters are soliciting donations. That…well, all kinds of sports stuff, but I wasn’t paying attention. That Kluge has been declared by Forbes to be the 12th richest man in America, with an estimated $10.5B to his name.

    And this was all very interesting. But it did not, however, include any mention of last night’s death. Now I’m asking myself if this is case of mass hallucination — is it possible that all of the people that I talked to about this have entirely invented this? Or perhaps there’s something to be said for the possibility that WVIR is completely out of touch with Charlottesville, as if they’re living in some alternate Charlottesville universe.

    I eagerly await tomorrow’s Progress. I’m cautiously optimistic.

  3. Also, what does facing up mean? Back-first or feet first? Sounds like back-first from the description of the injuries. Who would run through a window backwards with sufficient force to break it? Or did he summersault?

    Back-first, I believe. It seems consistent with sitting on a windowsill, leaning back on the glass, and the glass breaking leading to a fall.

    You know, since I’m such an expert in forensics. ;)

  4. I was there when it happened, but I didn’t see the "fall". I came out of the move theater at about 10:55, and I saw the scene. It looked like the guy definitely landed on his head. The sheet was completely drenched with blood at that end of the body. So, even though the fall was only like 30 feet, if he landed on his head, that "fall" would have definitely killed him.

  5. Thanks for mentioning that — I hadn’t seen that. I’m glad that the Progress added that to their site; I can only assume that they did that sometime Saturday, for which I credit them. They could just have easily have waited until Sunday to put the story up. I’ve linked to the piece in the original blurb.

  6. How shocking and sad! Condolences to his family. I hope the investigators find that it was an accident.

  7. I was there when it happened. There was no breaking glass from the window. What you heard was the table at Hamiltons he hit as he was falling. There were still glasses on the table.

    It was a horrible sight.

  8. That sounds plausible. Also, if he bled out before anyone could help him, thats consistent with a bleed from the head.

  9. We will probably never know for sure. So let us agree that it was an accident. An elderly person longing for death is neither uncommon nor unreasonable (both Jefferson and Madison did). Even at age fifty, one has seen what is worth seeing and one knows what possibilities remain. But at age nineteen? A young man dying to send a message of rage and despair, an upraised middle finger in the face of the world? No parent can deal with that. Parents never get over a child’s suicide. So it was an accident. Now let’s leave it alone and move on. The best thing we can do for Terry Dean is talk about something else.

  10. I agree with your statement about the Dean family’s best interests. I disagree, however, with your view of a young person’s motivations for suicide:

    A young man dying to send a message of rage and despair, an upraised middle finger in the face of the world?

    Sadly, I have a great deal of experience with this subject. Suicide is more commonly a selfish act, when the person finds the pain in his/her life unbearable and can’t see it ever changing. Age is irrelevant. There are strong arguments that there’s a biological component to a tendency toward depression, and suicide is a common “side effect” of the disease. Especially when someone is young and in that pit, it’s hard to know that life can go on. Be careful in your judgments.

  11. An astute reply and I agree with all but the word ‘selfish’: suicide is said to be an imbalance of pain (whatever its cause) and the resources available for coping with it.

    However a public spectacle–if that is the case here– is usually a kind of postcard. A message to somebody in particular or to the world in general. But a message. Somebody who is not angry or in despair but simply making a logical choice tends to go quietly, unobtrusively, privately.

    Maybe the most constructive thing to say is: there are resources both to reduce pain and to cope with pain which is chronic. It makes sense to explore these alternatives.

  12. Thanks for pointing that out, FDR. It’s a dated misconception to view suicide as a gesture of revenge against loved ones–the upraised middle finger to the world. I’m sure it feels that way to people who’ve lost a loved one to suicide, that "he did it expressly to hurt me!"

    But I think it’s much more common that the suicidee just can’t bear going on. It’s inwardly directed rather than outwardly directed, if that makes sense.

  13. There was definitely nothing anyone could have done for this man. I ran over to him within 30 seconds of impact and there was just no way we could have done anything for him, although I did make the effort to run around looking for a doctor at nearby cafes. A nurse was the best thing available until the EMTs arrived.

    While I am not a doctor, I strongly suspect that he died on impact (rather than bleeding) based on what I saw. He fortunately did not suffer from his injuries for longer than an instant.

  14. Hmm. I see your point about the public spectacle, but I believe that what’s going through a depressed suicide victim’s mind is not rational — therefore the “logical choice” is being made by someone not capable of what sane people would consider rational thought. Even when choosing a public act, suicide is still selfish because the victim is thinking of the impact that his/her death will have on others — considering only the pain that s/he can cause (e.g., the person who leaps into traffic to die isn’t thinking about the impact he will have on the life of the driver who hits him; he’s thinking that it will make him, the victim, important, the center of attention, if only momentarily). It’s totally self-centered.

    I think you’re right that when suicide is made as a logical choice (like in the example you gave before, about someone older already facing death, or like the trapped victims at the WTC who chose to jump instead of burn), it’s very different.

    Also, thanks for the constructive sentence at the end of your post; your statement is more true now than at any other time in history, and hopefully those resources will only continue to grow.

  15. There is no such thing as died on impact. Everyone dies from the same thing, lack of oxygen to the brain.

    He bled out. Plain and simple. That doesn’t mean there was anything anyone could have done for him, he could have easily lost half his blood supply by the time you got there 30 seconds later. But the reality of the situation is his brain was alive for a good 3-4 minutes, but unfortunatly there were no surgeons there with a transfusion ready to go within that time.

    You would have been better off helping him yourself, no nurse or doctor would have touched him with blood all over him, they’re more afraid of hepetitis than they are of him dying.

    I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I do know this though, if there was a sheet drenched in blood, his heart was pumping blood out of his body, thus he was alive. Dead people don’t bleed.

    You are correct that he did not suffer. The only good thing about this whole situation.

  16. Please, though, still keep in mind that suicide does not have to be, and is not always, a selfish act. Keep in mind that the freedom to kill ourselves is a freedom we barely enjoy. While I think suicide is "legal" in Virginia, there is hardly anyone who will seriously consider a persons wish to end their own life. Most people refuse to even hear such an argument, and many people who demonstrate a real threat to themselves are hospitalized or closely monitored. And the argument is /not/ out of order. Suicide has held an honorable place in many historical cultures (the ancient Romans and the Japanese, for two), suicide is acceptable, even a right, in many philosophies (there arent any criticised suicides in the Bible, I dont think, for instance), and suicide happens in artificial life experiments governed by a utilitarian ethics.

    More radically perhaps, keep in mind that while depression appears to be at least chemical, if not biological, there is increasing evidence coming from evolutionary psychiatrists that depression may be a useful response, like a cough, to a bad predicament.

  17. If local news media were reliable, and other upstart competitors (like Letters of Charlottesville) would not exist.

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