OAKLAND -- Up a shaft and onto a roof. Atop a train. Alongside a freeway. Over barbed wire. Back atop two trains.
The escape route taken by a 29-year-old Oakland man Thursday morning kept police in motion for almost an hour and closed down one of BART's busiest transfer stations during the peak of the morning commute, officials said.
The acrobatics at MacArthur Station ended with an arrest and a trip to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation for the suspect, later identified as Rodney Jenkins. He was set to eventually be booked at Santa Rita Jail on suspicion of trespassing on a railroad and interfering with or delaying the operation of a train, both misdemeanors, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.
Jenkins was also wanted on an parole violation, Trost said.
The incident began just before 5:30 a.m., when police were alerted that a man was throwing gravel at patrons from the rooftop of a small building at the station that sits atop a shaft once used as a train-control room, Trost said. The man had reached the roof by going up the stairs of a maintenance closet that was unlocked, then apparently shimmying up the shaft, Trost said.
"There is no way he could get up that shaft other than by using his hands and muscles and inching his way up," Trost said.
BART shut down power at the station, and to its trains, while police began climbing up a ladder to the shaft. That's when the man began his attempted escape, Trost said. He jumped a couple of feet onto an outdoor platform roof at the station, then jumped another few feet onto the roof of a train, Trost said.
From there, he ran from one end of the train to the other, and leapt approximately 20 feet onto the side of busy Interstate 980, Trost said.
Inside the stopped trains, passengers had a sense of the action, although it wasn't clear what was going on.
"We could hear loud footsteps on top of the train, so it was pretty clear somebody was running on the roof," said passenger Jennifer Jamall, 26, who was on a train. The sound "was like a velociraptor from 'Jurassic Park.' It was a little scary at first."
On nearby freeways, some motorists had a front-row view when some lanes were closed and traffic slowed to a crawl.
"That was a first for me, definitely a first," said Oakland Fire dispatcher Rachel Brown, who was in her car on the way to work when the chaos occurred. "That ranks up there."
The California Highway Patrol briefly shut down two lanes of Highway 24 to assist police, CHP Officer James Evans said.
During that time, the man crossed through some shrubbery to return to the midpoint of the station, where the tracks are split, Trost said. From there, he climbed over barbed wire and leapt from the fence onto the roof of a second train. He then leapt from that train to the roof of a third train, Trost said.
He finally surrendered about 7:15 a.m. while standing atop a train, Trost said. Police asked the man if they could search him, and when the man complied and climbed down, police handcuffed him, Trost said.
"The man kept saying, 'I need help, I need help. Please don't hurt me,'" Trost said.
Jenkins was taken to Highland Hospital for a physical exam and then to the John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro, Trost said. BART police said they have been involved in prior incidents with Jenkins, but they did not elaborate.
In all, 18 officers pursued the man as BART put into motion its Crisis Intervention unit.
"He put his life at risk, as well as the lives of the officers, the passengers and the people in their cars on (the freeway)," Trost said. "So it was a unique situation."
Power at the MacArthur station was shut down during the incident, and trains remained in place for approximately 50 minutes. Trains were up and running almost immediately after the man was arrested, but residual delays ensued through the morning, Trost said.
During the incident, all trains on the Pittsburg/Bay Point and Richmond lines were prevented from going through the MacArthur station, a major transfer point for trains heading to and from San Francisco. Trains on the Fremont-to-Daly City line were not affected, BART spokeswoman Luna Salaver said.
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this report.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.