July 25, 2002
Add 'hero' to his law enforcement resume. Alexandria Police Chief Charles Samarra was in the right place at the right time to prevent a city resident from jumping off the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Wednesday.
Samarra was driving to work at around 9:30 a.m. from his home in southern Maryland. As he was crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, he heard a call for officers to respond to a possible jumper on the bridge. He saw a Virginia Department of Transportation truck with its lights on and pulled in behind that vehicle. He got out of his car and saw two VDOT employees standing on either side of a woman who appeared to be distraught. The woman was standing next to the rail of the bridge on the inner loop of the Beltway with her arms draped over the rail.
Samarra approached the woman and was able to immediately grab her and pull her to safety.
“His first goal was to make sure that no one got hurt,” said Lt. John Crawford, a spokesperson for the police department. “Once he got her back from the railing, he made sure that she didn’t have any weapons and then took her to his car.”
THE WOMAN, a 34-year-old Alexandria resident, remained in Samarra’s car until an Alexandria police officer arrived. That officer later relinquished custody of the woman to Metropolitan police, who have jurisdiction of anything that happens over water on the bridge. She was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
“It was clear to everyone who saw her that she was planning to jump,” Crawford said. “Our communications personnel received several calls from people who were driving across the bridge. Also, she told the VDOT workers that she was going to jump. The chief’s quick and decisive action prevented her from doing so.”