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Billboard 'jumper' stiffs sheriff's deputies


By Stephen Owsinski

A would-be “suicidal person” reported to 9-1-1 by motorists compelled a Monday morning crisis intervention from the Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office. On January 19, 2015, drivers commuting in Sperry, Iowa, noticed a person sitting atop a huge roadside billboard advertising a local car dealership. Passers-by thought the individual was preparing to jump to his death. Hence, sheriff’s deputies responded and engaged the “subject” with dialogue. Nothing happened.

A stand-still ensued.

“It was dark. They couldn’t see,” Des Moines County Sheriff Mike Johnstone told a reporter from The Hawk Eye newspaper. A deluge of 9-1-1 calls kept the public safety dispatchers busy with reports of the “jumper.” Seemingly unwilling to talk, deputies on scene nevertheless continued to encourage dialogue with the man.

A Des Moines County deputy produced binoculars, focused, and ascertained the would-be suicidal person was not responding because…he couldn’t. It was a mannequin. An advertising prop.

Sheriff Johnstone saw the sign belonged to the Deery Brothers car dealership in nearby Burlington, and the billboard’s slogan read “From up here, I can see Deery of Burlington.”  A catchy message…with a suspiciously stiff delivery. Sheriff Johnstone put two and two together, and arrived at a course of action.

After contacting and informing Brad Deery, the dealership’s owner and purchaser of the gimmicky billboard agreed with the sheriff that the mannequin was generating a problem by not only distracting motorists but also creating emotional upheaval via the perception of a suicidal person. Undoubtedly, countless other citizens would have noticed and dialed 9-1-1, under the impression a human was about to jump from the highest reaches of the double-stacked billboard.

Deery summed it up by saying: “The sheriff didn’t tell me to take it down, but when I heard about the 911 calls – I don’t want to be tying up a line. I’m here to sell cars, not get people hurt.” According to WATE.com, the stiff dubbed by law enforcement as “Manny the mannequin” has been removed as of Friday, January 23. Deery also intimated that, although he has not sold one car since the mannequin debacle, he is seeing soaring consumer interest in his dealership.

“Crisis” averted (de-throned). Law enforcement resources chalked up another episode to indelibly remember. The Oh, Deery, whose idea was this?  incident was abated without injury or broken fiberglass. Only in law enforcement can you occupy a front-row seat to the most varied show on earth.

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