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Missouri Native Who Jumps to his Death in San Francisco Becomes Social Media Sensation

SF Weekly cover.jpg
Andrew J. Nilsen
Our sister paper SF Weekly has a terrific feature story this week called "Public Influence" on the suicide of Dylan Yount, a Harrisburg native and Mizzou graduate who plummeted to a very public death from his apartment building.

Our own former RFT editorial fellow Albert Samaha tells the sad tale through the eyes of Yount's friends and family, but also through the tweets, Flickr, Yelp and Facebook statuses that documented Yount's final moments. Samaha also poses a disturbing question:

Did shouts from the crowd that gathered below actually convince Yount to jump?

The story traces Yount's life from small-town central Missouri to San Francisco, where he worked in the communications industry and accumulated the trappings of a successful life. But it culminates in a terrifying scene on the fourth-floor ledge of a commercial building in downtown San Francisco, where Yount stood for 45 minutes wearing only his boxer shorts. From the story:

Some people look on silently, hands over mouths. A teenage girl in a sundress wipes tears from her eyes. A circle of high school-age kids debate whether a fall from that height would be fatal. A woman in a pantsuit talks into her phone, excitedly describing the scene. Others peck away at keypads. More phones pop up above the mass, angling for a snapshot. A light buzz of chatter hums along, punctuated by a shout.

"Jump!"

Heads turn, seeking out the class clown in the sea of faces. Laughter rising all around, compressed snickers and knee-slapping roars.

In between chuckles, a man in a blue button-down blurts, "He said 'Jump!'"

His female companion in black sunglasses replies with an enthusiastic cackle, "That's awful!"

The shouts come every few seconds.

"Do it already!"

"Idiot!"

A few people occasionally call "Don't do it!" But they are outnumbered.

"Stupid motherfucker!"

As Samaha reports, Yount's mother Kathie sued the San Francisco Police Department for failing to silence antagonizers who challenged her son to jump.

Read the full story: "Public Influence: The Immortalization of an Anonymous Death." It's well worth the time.

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19 comments
Kathie Yount
Kathie Yount

Could anyone explain Veronica's comment "Joseph Hawkes-Beamon"?

David Enders
David Enders

The lack of compassion for our fellow man is our biggest loss.

Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd

Its sad that when you need help the most the only thing you'll get is a camera phone in your face.

David J. McCutcheon
David J. McCutcheon

San Francisco is a dreadful city, but this isn't anything new. I've been on the Internet long enough to know that humanity is filled with sick motherfuckers.

kathieyount
kathieyount

Your attitude epitomizes exactly WHY yelling jump to a suicidal person is a crime in most states in most jurisdictions.  If you cannot understand why maliciously encouraging a suicide would be immoral--if the Golden Rule doesn't make sense to you--then society has to learn to speak to people like you on LEGAL grounds.  Twenty-four police officers cleared the jump zone, joked and laughed with the crowd, and allowed the suicide baiting crowd to dehumanize and mock my despondent son.  I hope this never happens to you or to anyone you love.  

kathieyount
kathieyount

Actually, yelling jump to a suicidal person IS a crime.  CA penal code 401 states exactly that.

noseydiver
noseydiver

Suicide is the ultimate personal choice.  No person or public can influence someone to commit suicide and while yelling jump is crass, it is not murder.  Being an asshole who yells jump is not a crime and shouldn't be.  This recent trend of calling jumpers' bluffs is indicative of the larger subconscious understanding that the person jumping is indeed not special and doesn't deserve special treatment.  Life is hard.  There are 7 billion people on the planet most of whom manage to deal just fine.  Their needs are not special and they need to cowboy the fuck up.  No one is going to be there to catch them when they fall, pun intended.

noseydiver
noseydiver

Allow me to posit a thought expirement to you if I may.  Let's for a minute say that you are right and so is the story and that the overwhelming majority of people were indeed egging him on to jump.  Let's say hypothetically that he decided not to jump and went back inside.  Conversly let's say everyone was pleading with him not to jump and was being overwhelmingly positive and he jumped anyway.  In either scenario the decision to jump or not to jump lies fundamentally with the individual and they, alone, are responsible for that action.  Morality and ethics matter nothing and your desire to find someone to blame is pointless because the idea that we can project blame to an external person other than the decision maker is ludicrous and moot. The "Golden Rule" is an ethical choice, not a law, and thank goodness for that.  If someone I loved decided to jump, horrible as that might be to me, I wouldn't blame anyone else except them.  The person that should be blamed is the jumper.  Period.

noseydiver
noseydiver

Haha what isn't illegal in CA.  And it shouldn't be a crime.

hplovecraft
hplovecraft

@noseydiver  I tried , in a very obtuse way , to convey something ' some what ' similar to your post , in SFWeekly , a few days ago and  needless to say , I was hammered by the deceased's ready made fan club of admirer's.. I basically quoted Jean Paul Sartre.. Political correctness is rampant in S'ci F'i and has taken all the joy out of a city completely over run by neuvo-riche overcompensated 'techies' and their worshippers ( to include the city's mayor.)

hplovecraft
hplovecraft

 I concur.. My follow up replies are 'to' the attackers and if you reread my 'original post' , it's fairly inert..I wasn't a 'fan' but... Thank you..

noseydiver
noseydiver

I'm not surprised Randolph and I sympathize after reading the overwhelming comments in the SF weekly blog.  I do however wish also to make it clear that I sympathize with Dylan's mother and their family and wish them well in their time of hardship.  It is difficult to be empathetic while staying steadfast to principles of reason and logic but the two are not mutually exclusive.  Many communities, media sources, and people have, as they always have, been more swayed by the power and passion of emotional response then they are to think critically.  The RFT and SF Weekly are examples of advocacy media that make serious money out of pulling on the heart strings using stories exactly like this one.  Feeling sympathy or emotional response to something tragic should NEVER overpower critical thinking about responsibility, decision making, or blame.  I wish Dylan had not jumped but I'm not going to make criminals or assign culpability to those who shouted the simple word "jump" out of malice or schadenfreude to the man who ultimately 100% made that decision.  He could have just as easily gone back inside.  But he didn't.  He made his mind up.  While you might not choose to blame him, we cannot blame others for that choice.

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