After spending an hour on the lawn of the building formerly known as Woodlawn, this is what I know about what Merritt and the editorial staff saw a little while ago:
The man seen behaving erratically on the roof most likely isn't off his meds, suicidal or in need of any help at all. Turns out that between 1 and 2 a.m. today, Dallas County Hospital District officers arrested a man for stealing what one officer describes as "quite a bit" of copper wiring--by which he means bundles and bundles of thick, heavy wire used to keep the decaying hospital's hallways glowing. The theft of copper is a common occurance all over the city, especially at abandoned sites like the former Parkland Hospital building, but usually it's done by the homeless looking to score enough spare change for a six-pack. According to one officer on the scene, this was a much larger operating that most likely involved two men: The location was thoroughly scouted, and what electricity that does stream into the building was shut off in order to avoid electrocution during the stripping and stealing of wire. The man who was arrested this morning was found in the old smokestack behind the building, sleeping on years' worth of accumulated pigeon shit. If he had a partner, he wasn't discovered last night.
At 8:45 this morning, two DCHD officers went into the building to see just what was stolen; apparently, some of the wiring had already been taken off the premises by the thief (or thieves). The once-illuminated hallways were pitch black; the only light in the place now comes from cracks in the plywood used to cover the third-floor windows. The officers didn't venture on the roof because they didn't hear anything up there, and because the roof is rotting and hazardous to walk on--especially after last night's storms. Most likely the guy on the roof was behaving a little nuts because he knew there were police officers in the building. It was when they left that editorial saw the guy and called 9-1-1, fearing he was a jumper.
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At about 12:20 p.m., DCHD officers in plain clothes returned (along with a few Observer staffers) to find the guy, now carrying his red T-shirt, trying to climb down a tree at the left of the Maple Avenue entrance. "I'm scared," he shouted down. "I can't get down." Officers yelled for him to stop and turn around. "I sleep up here all the time," the guy insisted, before scurrying back to the roof and ducking into the only open door up there, which leads to a staircase that has access to all three floors. That was 80 minutes ago, and there's been no change: He's still in the building (or so it would appear), and the officers are still outside waiting for either the guy to come out or for orders to go into a pitch-black building that so reeks of human waste a dog from the K-9 unit is likely to be of little help. --Robert Wilonsky