A routine traffic stop on a highway in Connecticut turned into an emotional moment between a state trooper and a U.S. Army veteran who was contemplating suicide.
Trooper Kyle Kaelberer was conducting traffic enforcement on Sunday, September 11, when he saw a vehicle stop and activate its hazard lights on Interstate 84, near the exit 68 off-ramp. Kaelberer stopped to assist the motorist, who identified himself as a U.S. Army veteran. The man was in distress and said he was on the phone with a counselor from the Veterans Administration suicide prevention hotline, Connecticut State Police said.
"We'll help you out, all right bud?" Kaelberer told the veteran, according to body camera footage released by state police. "I’m here with you. I’m here with you, all right?”
Kaelberer said he would call for an ambulance. When the man objected that he could not afford one, the trooper assured him that the state would pay for the expense. He then asked the veteran if he would step out of his vehicle to talk.
“It’s a tough time for everyone in your position, I’m here with you,” Kaelberer said.
The distraught man asked if he could have a hug and Kaelberer embraced him.
The state police said Kaelberer then helped the veteran receive medical care. In a Facebook post, police urged Connecticut residents to call 988 if they or someone they know is contemplating suicide.
“We encourage [people contemplating suicide] to call 988, call 911 if it’s immediate, and we’ll respond,” Sgt. Christine Jeltema told the Hartford Courant. “988 will respond as well to them and get them the help that they need.”
Jeltema said that drivers in distress should activate their hazard lights, like the veteran did, if they need assistance. She said state troopers are trained to assist with motorists who activate their hazard lights, even when off-duty.
Jeltema explained that motorists may stop with their hazard lights on if they need directions or if something is wrong with their vehicle. In this case, a man who needed help got it.
“I just think that the other side of law enforcement is that compassion,” Jeltema said. “We’re trained to deal with people who are in [a] mental health crisis, and it’s something that we as troopers and law enforcement do every day.”
The state police noted that September is Suicide Prevention Month. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 800-273-8255. Counselors are also available to chat at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You are not alone. It is not too late to reach out to someone who can help you.