SEATTLE (AP) – Despite hours of police coaxing, a man refused to leave his perch near the top of an 80-foot tall sequoia tree in downtown Seattle Wednesday morning.
Authorities were alerted to the unidentified man in the tree around 11 a.m. Tuesday and he was still clinging to its branches at 7 a.m. Wednesday, more than 20 hours later.
“Issue appears to be between the man and the tree,” Seattle police tweeted.
The department’s tweet was just part of the online commotion the incident sparked, with new Twitter accounts dedicated to it and the hashtag #ManInTree trending on Twitter and Facebook.
The man’s treetop sitting has also attracted onlookers on the street below and a local TV station livestreamed video of the man online as he dozed, shouted and knocked around a stick. The reporter and cameraman could be heard repeatedly telling passers-by that the man was indeed still in the tree.
“It is quite a spectacle, honestly,” police spokesman Patrick Michaud told The Seattle Times.
Michaud said police want to make sure the man can get down without hurting himself or someone else and added that rushing it could create a dangerous situation. Police have said he appears to be suffering from a crisis and has been yelling intermittently.
Seattle police say when authorities arrived at the base of the lofty conifer next to Macy’s department store, the man refused to speak with them and threw an apple at medics.
The man, appearing disheveled with a large beard, longer hair and a red knit hat he dropped during the day, has also ripped multiple branches from the tree and tossed them at the ground and at negotiators, who caught many of them.
The man scrambled down toward the bottom just before 9 p.m. Tuesday, but soon made his way back up, snapping branches along the way.
By Tuesday afternoon, police said traffic was being tied up as officials closed nearby roads as a precaution.
Negotiators with assistance from the Seattle Fire Department were on a fire truck ladder tried to talk the man down from the tree Tuesday night.
Seattle Department of Transportation officials will review the health of the tree, believed to have been there since the 1970s, once the incident is resolved, police said.