A Rogue Climber Running From the Law Was Fleeing His Own Trauma



A former paratrooper became an “urban explorer,” scaling the tops of bridges and buildings to help ease his PTSD. He now faces criminal charges in several states. Isaac Wright pulled himself up onto the crest of a 400-foot suspension bridge last fall, looked down at the specks of headlights below, and experienced a rush he had not felt since he was paratrooper in an Army Special Forces battalion. He had left the Army a few months before on a medical retirement after six years in uniform, but as a civilian, he soon felt disillusioned and directionless, struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide. Climbing, he discovered, helped. Hoping to build a profession as a photographer, he had started scaling buildings to find different views, and realized it also offered a fresh perspective on life. Going up hand over hand forced him to focus on the present instead of the past. The vistas were inspiring. It was better, he said, than any therapy he had ever tried. So he started crisscrossing the country, chasing that feeling. He trespassed at night, jumping fences, edging across girders, scrambling up skyscrapers, stadiums, bridges and construction cranes, joining a fringe community of like-minded adventurers who call themselves urban explorers. He made stunning photographs and shared them under an alias on social media, where he attracted thousands of followers.“Picking up a camera was lifesaving for me,” Mr. Wright, 25, wrote in an Instagram post on Veterans Day that featured him perched on a steel beam high above Midtown Manhattan. “It showed me all the beautiful things in life after my life was falling apart.”But what Mr. Wright saw as transformative was also extremely dangerous, and a crime. The police in his hometown, Cincinnati, put out a nationwide warrant for his arrest after he climbed a skyscraper there. Though he had no criminal record and owned no guns, the warrant warned that he had special military training and PTSD, and should be considered armed and dangerous. In December, records show, state troopers in Arizona shut down an interstate highway to catch him. With a police helicopter circling overhead, more than 20 officers swarmed in with dogs and assault rifles. Mr. Wright, who is Black and has had two members of his extended family killed by police officers, edged out of his car and lay down on the asphalt with his hands outstretched, unaware that his exploits had made him the subject of an interstate manhunt. Urban explorers who are caught trespassing are typically charged with misdemeanors, if at all. Mr. Wright, however, was charged with burglary — for entering a building to take photographs — and several other felonies that could put him in prison for more than 25 years. After the arrest, he was held without bond in 23-hour lockdown for nearly four months. Prosecutors argued that Mr. Wright’s time in the Army made him too dangerous to release.

All data is taken from the source: http://nytimes.com
Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/04/us/isaac-wright-driftershoots-ptsd.html

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