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Officers save man who climbed Beach Convention Center

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Posted at 6:52 PM, Aug 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-29 09:44:59-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - Two Virginia Beach officers are being called heroes after they took action to save a man who climbed the Virginia Beach Convention Center on Monday. 

Melissa Johnston heard on her radio a man was scaling the Virginia Beach Convention Center. She recognized him because she was there when he did it before.

She hustled across the street and up the elevator, hoping a familiar face might calm him.

“Climbed up the catwalk and just sat down and started talking to him,” says Johnston.

This time, he was much higher, where a fall would be fatal.

Today, two days after the rooftop drama, she recounted the rescue. While she talked to the man, a second officer arrived and then firefighters handed the officers harnesses. She had no idea someone with a camera was in the tower to the left.

A picture captures the moment he is pulling away. Johnston is on the left, and Officer Doug Zebley on the right, holding the man at about 100 feet up.

“What were you thinking when this picture was taken?” asked NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather.

“I was hoping Doug could hang onto him long enough to calm him down. And that we could get him up to a position where we could save him,” says Johnston.

The photograph is being forwarded through several police departments, hailing the officers as heroes.

We don't know who took it, but Johnston said it reveals the few moments of tension when she didn't know how this would end. With the help of firefighters, they saved the man. When he was off the edge and out of danger, he did something Johnston didn't expect. He thanked her.

“What does that mean to you?” asked Mike Mather.

“It means a lot to me,” says Johnston. “And for me, that's all I need, to know in one moment I made a difference to him.”

Related: 

Man taken into custody after climbing on top of Beach Convention Center