St. Paul Police Chief stops suicide attempt during morning commute

It was an eventful morning for St. Paul's top cop Tuesday, with the Chief saving a life before he had even clocked in for the day.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell was on his way to work when he heard a call come across his radio about a woman who was considering jumping from the Robert Street Bridge, just a few blocks from where he was. Axtell decided to stop by and help the several officers who had already responded to the call, arriving to find Officer Frank Judge talking with a woman sitting on the edge of the bridge.

"Once you're a street cop, you are always a street cop," he said. "Regardless of the rank we hold. It was the right thing to do."

Axtell was able to move in behind Judge and, along with his help, pull the woman to safety. For the next several minutes, both men held her in their arms to both restrain and comfort her. 

In fact, the chief says she reminded him of his own daughter, who is about the same age.

"Officer Judge and I held her close in a way that she wasn't able to get up and harm herself in any way, but also in a way to let her know we are there to help her," he said. "As I get closer to the end of my career to have an outcome like I saw today is personally and professionally rewarding for me."

This isn't the first time he's made an impact in the middle of his commute, either.

In February 2017, the Chief was also on his way to work when he drove past a domestic assault and stopped to detain the suspect before backup arrived. 

“This incident isn’t really about me," he said at the time. "I was just doing what our cops do every day—responding to something that is wrong in order to make it right."


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255. The hotline has trained staff available 24/7 to help those in crisis. Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by being aware of the warning signs of suicidal behaviors:

  • Talking about wanting to die; feeling hopeless, trapped, or in unbearable pain, being a burden to others
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.


If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:

  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
  • Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • If possible, do not leave the person alone.