'This obviously isn't the first time,' man says during second standoff on Ravenel Bridge
When Phillip Louis DeClemente called 911 on Friday night, it had been two years since he scribbled on his vehicle, parked on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and held up traffic for hours.
Then, he wanted to prove a point to a former business partner he had been convicted of harassing.
The 40-year-old Mount Pleasant resident said after the ordeal that his ploy had worked. It brought attention to his plight.
On Friday, DeClemente expressed the same gripes to a 911 dispatcher as police sirens wailed in the background.
He feared what he called further harassment and abuse by local police agencies, doctors and the former business partner. He had tried to confront the West Ashley man minutes earlier, and that's why police cruisers were following Clemente's minivan toward Interstate 26.
DeClemente refused to pull over until he felt safe, he told the dispatcher. He wanted to find a well-lit area.
When he finally stopped, he found himself near the same spot of his standoff with authorities in February 2012 - atop the Ravenel Bridge. He warned officers to stand back.
"This obviously isn't the first time. They're aware of who I am," he said in the call obtained Monday through an S.C. Freedom of Information Act request. "They have caused me physical, bodily harm.
"I've already been to this bridge once before to stop it."
Northbound traffic was blocked for more than an hour, but the situation ended peacefully with his arrest. DeClemente, who avoided criminal charges in the first bridge confrontation, was jailed without bail on a felony charge of stalking and misdemeanor counts of making threats and failure to stop for blue lights.
Considering DeClemente's behavior Friday night and his history, Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said, officers had no choice but to shut down part of the bridge as they handcuffed him. Earlier in the day, it had been closed entirely for six hours because of falling ice.
Friday's standoff was "brief," police said. DeClemente was arrested at 11:30 p.m., and the bridge was reopened after midnight.
DeClemente, a former rescue squad member, was taken to Medical University Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. After spending a month at the facility after the 2012 standoff, DeClemente said at the time, he emerged with a clean bill of mental health.
That first bridge encounter resulted from a two-year personal and professional slide, he told The Post and Courier then.
DeClemente said he knew what he was doing on Feb. 2, 2012, when he painted words like "game over" and "back off" on his Lexus sport-utility vehicle and stopped it on the span. Police later found a smoke grenade and two cans of pepper spray inside.
He was aggrieved over a home foreclosure and a falling-out with the private investigator he tried to do business with, David Leaird, and his girlfriend, Summer Walker.
DeClemente had pleaded guilty in August 2011 to harassing Leaird. But he said Leaird also had harassed him.
Even after the 2012 bridge incident, Leaird told police Friday that the harassment didn't end. It came in spurts over the past few years.
In a brief interview Monday, Leaird said he had not heard from DeClemente for several months before last week's outburst.
He speculated that something had gone awry in DeClemente's personal life. That triggered an on-again, off-again fixation with him that resulted from perceived abandonment issues, Leaird said.
It came to a boiling point Friday.
"He has been fixated on me," Leaird said. "He's got some serious mental health issues."
DeClemente sent eight text messages to Leaird starting around 2 p.m., arrest affidavits stated.
"I'm going to find you and take care of you," one said, according to the documents.
Police didn't get involved until 10:14 p.m., after they said DeClemente drove to Leaird's home on Northbridge Drive and pounded on his door. A neighbor also reported seeing DeClemente pacing and hollering in Leaird's front yard.
DeClemente cursed and assumed a "fighting stance," the affidavits stated.
"Come out," he yelled, according to the documents, "and face me so I can take care of you once and for all."
Leaird grabbed a gun. His family was home, and he was afraid for their safety.
In his later 911 call, DeClemente said he had kept his distance and had not entered Leaird's yard.
"I asked him to come down and talk to me," he told the dispatcher. "I asked him to take accountability for what he's done."
When they closed in on the scene, police saw DeClemente's silver Honda Odyssey pulling "erratically" from a driveway.
The minivan traveled over Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Cosgrove Avenue in North Charleston. Its driver obeyed every traffic law, police said, except ones requiring him to pull over for flashing blue lights.
DeClemente called 911 with the cruisers still tailing his minivan. The officers stopped following him when the Honda entered eastbound I-26.
DeClemente said his past confrontations with local police officers and deputies usually ended with him being physically harmed. He was scared of being put in a wheelchair or a hospital for the rest of his life.
He wanted help from the State Law Enforcement Division or another law agency outside Charleston.
"I'm tired. I'm exhausted," he said as the dispatcher urged him to pull over. "I can't just pull over with what they've done to me."
As DeClemente mentioned that he was crossing the Ravenel Bridge, with its cables and towers brightly lit, the dispatcher suggested that he stop there. He did.
"I want everybody to stay back from my car," he said. "I want no aggressive behavior."
Toward the end of the 20-minute call, DeClemente said he had pepper spray, maybe a "smoke bomb in the back" and a "knife somewhere," but no weapons within reach. Officers found some of those items in his vehicle after the 2012 standoff.
"I'm not going to harm anybody," he said. "I need them to stop harming me."
As the officers slowly walked up to the minivan, DeClemente hung up.
"You feel better," the dispatcher said. "OK?"
Glenn Smith contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.