Tape of 911 Calls in Suicide Case Released
In a calm and lucid voice, the 40-year-old Long Beach man who killed himself on live television last week told a 911 dispatcher that he was unhappy with his “situation” and was “going to draw attention to it whichever way” he could, according to a tape of two emergency calls he made within an hour of his death.
“My paramount goal is for no one other than myself to get hurt,” Daniel V. Jones said on the tape, an edited version of which was released Tuesday by the California Highway Patrol. “It’s no one’s fault that I’m in this situation except for myself.”
Jones, who reportedly was HIV-positive, did not specifically describe his situation to the operators on the tape. But in a “goodbye” videotape recorded earlier, he complained that his health maintenance organization was giving him the runaround and that he was in pain, Los Angeles police said. “I’m a dead man,” he reportedly said.
On the video, Jones said that it would routinely take him a month to schedule an appointment with a doctor and another month to get the results of a test, police said.
The first 911 call was made at 3:05 p.m. Thursday while Jones was parked on the interchange of the Harbor and Century freeways high above South-Central Los Angeles.
“Hi, 911. I’m on the freeway right now and I kind of stopped traffic. I’m kind of throwing firebombs,” he said from his cellular phone. “I just freaked out a whole bunch of people.”
Jones said he was carrying a Molotov cocktail, a propane tank and a pipe bomb inside a five-gallon drum of gasoline, all of which could “really mess up this overpass.” But he repeatedly said that he did not want to hurt anyone.
“I waited until traffic was perfectly clear,” he said. “There was a good quarter-mile between me and the car behind me. I stopped. I threw my first firebomb. That got their attention, so they stopped and now traffic is really starting to back up. They may think I’m a lunatic, but, you know, it is crazy to do this s---.”
The operator asked him several times whether he wanted to talk about what was bothering him but he declined, saying only, “I’m not happy with what’s happening to my situation and I’m going to draw attention to it whichever way I can.”
The second phone call to 911 came some time before 3:38 p.m.
“Hi, 911,” he said again. “I’m the idiot sitting in the middle of the freeway overpass with a big bomb.”
Jones said he was going to drop a blue backpack over the freeway wall, and promised the dispatcher that it did not contain an explosive. “It has a videotape that will explain things a little better,” he said.
He later said that although he had a shotgun, he would not fire at anyone. “I will not go near it,” he said.
There was a moment of confusion on the tape when the dispatcher said the truck he was looking at on a monitor was black, while Jones insisted it was gray.
“That’s not your truck then,” said the operator.
” Well, how many people do you have sitting in the middle of an overpass?” asked Jones.
“There’s someone else over on the 5,” the dispatcher said.
“On the 5? Really?”
After Jones made the phone calls to 911, he got out of his truck, threw the backpack with the videotape that one official described as a “goodbye tape,” and then unfurled a banner on the pavement that said: “HMOs are in it for the money!! Live free, love safe or die.”
He returned to his truck and petted his 7-year-old dog Gladdis. Suddenly, flames blew out the windows of the cab, and Jones emerged with his clothes and hair on fire. Writhing on the ground, he ripped his pants and socks off and climbed on the freeway wall as if to jump--but didn’t. He then removed a shotgun from the bed of his pickup truck, walked to the median and shot himself in the head.
The suicide tied up traffic well into Thursday night and generated debate about the ethics of broadcasting such breaking news events on live television. Two stations interrupted children’s programming to show the graphic suicide.