Man takes fatal plunge near Union Square

A man slit his wrists before stepping out onto the ledge of a swanky condominium near the Union Square shopping district, drawing a crowd of more than 100 witnesses before plunging four stories to his death Thursday afternoon.

The jumper, a tall, medium-built white man in his late 30s or early 40s, stood on a top-floor ledge above the H&M clothing store near the corner of Powell and O’Farrell streets for nearly 45 minutes before jumping, witnesses said.

Police were called to 181 O’Farrell St. at 2:25 p.m. and immediately closed off Powell Street, but passersby gathered beyond the barricades to watch.

“This guy was standing, frozen, for about 45 minutes. Then he looked at the crowd, and about five minutes later, he let go and jumped,” said Hicham Benkebil, a Hotel Nikko employee who came around the corner to examine the scene. “It’s crazy. It’s freaky. I didn’t think he would do it.”

Police crisis negotiators arrived at the building and discovered that both the man’s wrists were cut, according to police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens. They attempted to talk him down, and that’s when the man jumped, Gittens said.

Angelo Valero, who works at the hat store Lids — directly across the street from the scene — also witnessed theman’s plunge.

“All of a sudden he jumped, and landed right in front of the doors [of H&M],” Valero said. “It was depressing to watch, really ugly.”

After the man fell to the sidewalk, paramedics took him to San Francisco General Hospital, where he died, according to police. The Medical Examiner’s Office had not identified the man at press time.

Streets around the site reopened just before 3:40 p.m. H&M remained closed until nearly 4 p.m. Lisa Sandberg, a spokeswoman for the clothing seller, would not comment on the incident, nor would a building manager for 181 O’Farrell St.

The building, known as The Odeon, opened in 2007 and contains 29 two-story luxury condominiums, according to the building’s Web site. Condos in the building are listed at $899,000.

It is not known if the man was a resident of the building.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Examiner Staff Writer Mike Aldax contributed to this report.

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