By Scott Helman, Maria Cramer, Jenna Russell, Michael Rezendes, and Todd Wallack
It’s 11 p.m. on a Thursday, and this sprawling, twinkling city of 1.5 million people feels bigger than ever.
The 911 call transcript has just come across a laptop mounted on the dash of the police SUV: suicide-in-progress, northwest side.
A woman in her late 20s tried to hang herself in her bedroom. Her boyfriend walked in just in time, pulled her down, and hog-tied her while he called for help.
James Williams and Jon Sabo, partners in the San Antonio Police Department’s mental health unit, are way across town, having diffused an earlier crisis. They carve through side streets, speed bumps thumping underneath.
“It always feels like it’s forever to get there on a call like this,” Williams says from the driver’s seat.
EMTs are inside the modern brick house when Williams and Sabo pull up. Williams finds the boyfriend. Sabo heads for the bedroom.
A woman in a blue tank top and white athletic socks sits on a black folding chair. Minutes earlier she’d stood on that chair and put her neck through a slipknot hung from the ceiling rafters. The rope now lies at the foot of her unmade bed.
“I’m good,” she says to Sabo, her speech slurred. Her boyfriend overreacted to a Halloween joke, she says.
Sabo doesn’t buy it. He pries further, his gentle tone more social worker than cop. He learns that she struggles with alcohol, had attempted suicide before, and takes psychiatric medication. He’s leaning in close now, almost whispering.
“I really don’t think you’re good,” he says. “I think you know that. I really want to help. What’s going on?”
She’s tired of living, she says. She feels estranged from her family. She’s drinking again after several years of sobriety.