Police shock man who threatened to kill himself

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 5, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A man who once stole money from the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation while he was its vice president was in critical condition Thursday evening after trying to kill himself, police said.
John Knox Bridges grabbed a shotgun lying at his side and pulled the trigger after a Salisbury Police Department officer shot him with a Taser in an attempt to incapacitate the apparently suicidal Bridges, police said.
Police Chief Rory Collins said the officer acted appropriately and that if he hadn’t stunned Bridges, he might have succeeded in taking his own life.
Collins said he didn’t know why Bridges wanted to kill himself. The South Ellis Street man lost several high-profile jobs over the past decade after his employers discovered he’d embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from them.
In early 2000, Bridges stole money from Ben Long, a prominent North Carolina fresco artist, Long alleged in a 2008 lawsuit.
Long claimed Bridges stole more than $800,000 by negotiating contracts for Long’s work then keeping the proceeds for himself.
Bridges settled the lawsuit and paid Long an undisclosed amount of money.
He was fired from his job as president of the Minnesota-based Lindbergh Foundation after foundation officials discovered he misused $600,000. He later repaid the money, according to news accounts, with funds he stole from the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation.
He was asked to step down as vice president of the foundation that supports the Transportation Museum in Spencer after it was reported he took the money from the foundation under the guise of funding a grant match.
The Lindbergh Foundation returned the money to the Transportation Museum and was later repaid $613,000 from Bridges through his attorney.
On Thursday, Salisbury Police say, Bridges, 50, delivered a note to a neighbor on South Ellis Street. After reading the note, the neighbor became concerned Bridges would harm himself, Collins said.
The note was in an unsealed envelope and addressed to the neighbor’s husband. But the neighbor, who police did not identify, felt “something wasn’t right” and called police, Collins said.
Around 10:30 a.m., officers arrived at Bridges’ home at 207 S. Ellis St. They found him armed with a shotgun, which he had turned toward himself.
“At that point officers began speaking to him in an attempt to talk him into surrendering the weapon,” Collins said.
Officers blocked access to the street and called in one of the department’s trained negotiators, Capt. Shelia Lingle. She spoke with Bridges for about 30 minutes inside his garage at the back of his property.
“He appeared to be calming down, somewhat, and even removed his hand from the gun,” Collins said.
With both hands free of the shotgun, Bridges was smoking a cigarette in one hand and holding a bottle of water in the other.
An officer standing nearby used that opportunity to stun Bridges with a Taser.
Bridges, sitting on the floor, was not incapacitated by the barbs, but instead reached for the shotgun beside him and pulled the trigger.
Bridges shot himself in the left torso.
Collins said he believes if the officer had not shot Bridges with the Taser, he would have succeeded in killing himself.
Police officers tried to stop the bleeding until EMS personnel, who were standing by at the scene, were able to get into the garage.
“He was breathing and talking to officers when put into the ambulance,” Collins said.
Bridges was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center and later transferred to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
Collins said that normally a person should not be able to move so quickly after being shot with a Taser.
When asked what the letter contained to explain what may have prompted Bridges to attempt suicide, Collins said he had not seen the letter and did not know.
Bridges, a Mecklenburg County native, bought the house with his mother in 2006.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.