After 15-Hour Standoff on SMU Crane, Man Plunges 150 Feet to His Death

Update at 12:52 p.m.:Police have identified the man as 44-year-old Lee Dell Thomas, Jr. A news conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. at DPD headquarters.

Update at 11:46 a.m.:The Dallas Police Department has posted an update of sorts on its Facebook page. They still have not identified the man and are conducting a followup investigation.

The man who stole a box truck downtown and climbed into a construction crane Monday for a 15-hour standoff with police plunged to his death at about 1:45 a.m.

According to reports, the man sprayed police with liquid as they climbed to reach him, got out of the cab where he had spent the better part of a day, and dangled for a moment before plunging to his death.

SMU announced an hour later that the campus was open and details will be provided later by Dallas police.

And suddenly, the jokey Facebook pages and Twitter feeds don't seem terribly funny.

Update at 8:55 a.m.: A couple of hours after the man, who has yet to be identified, fell to his death, one of his social media avatars, @TheSMUCraneGuy tweeted posthumously:

Anything new? I blacked out for a little bit...


Still have to poop

The horrible timing seems to have been accidental, since a couple of hours later, @TheSMUCraneGuy updated us on his whereabouts:

Tweetin' from heaven.. guess my Tuesday plans aren't happening. Someone tell my boss i'm not coming in today.. or ever.. #Iquit

What wit. @SMUCraneMan too:

Wading for a moment into the comments on the story on CBS 11's website, we find this gem from BeachGuy53:

8.4, 8.5, 8.3, ... The marks would have been better except his landing sucked.

And this one from GumBall:

Why don't we get to see this brother splattered on the ground? Now that would be worth watching

Props, however, to @SMUCRANEGUY, who had decency enough to realize that any chance of humor ended when the man was dangling 150 feet above the ground.

The Twitter feeds -- or one of them at least -- were funny, a way to process what was a bizarre and frightening situation. But eventually one has to come to terms with the fact that the man in the crane is a human being who is deeply troubled, not a subplot on some police procedural. Not everyone did.

The voyeuristic enjoyment of another's suffering is not a product of social media, though undoubtedly there will some obligatory hand-wringing over whether the platform makes us assholes. But it can, as this case shows, become the town square where people gather to watch the hangman do his work.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson