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Queens Man Comes Down From Tree After Spending Almost 3 Days Avoiding Police

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A man who spent almost three days up in a tree in Queens finally came down Friday evening.

Roody Thomas climbed the tree in an attempt to avoid police around 2 p.m. Wednesday.

He climbed out of the tree shortly after 5 p.m. Friday and has since been taken into police custody.

Police had been working around the clock to get him to come down, using sirens, drones and negotiators, but nothing worked, CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported.

Officers eventually pulled off of the street, which was enough to bring Thomas out of the tree and onto the roof of his home.

A pastor then went in to reassure him that he wasn't going to be hurt by police and that they cared about his mental health.

Thomas eventually got off the roof. As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reports, Thomas shared his past with police from his porch after coming down and also spewed anti-gay sentiments.

His neighbors say he's mentally troubled and needs help and support.

Thomas said he would agree to go to a local psychiatric center. Police then will determine if he will be charged with harassing his mother and punching his girlfriend in September.

Watch Kevin Rincon's report --

Police were called to Thomas's home on 145th Avenue in Brookville after his mother called claiming he was threatening her.

"My name is Roody Thomas... I currently have a lawsuit against NYPD, DOC, Rikers Island," Thomas said from the tree.

That lawsuit filed in 2013 claimed Thomas was assaulted by a captain and as many as 10 other officers. The case was allowed to continue at the time, but there were issues locating Thomas, who friends say often climbs the tree and behaves erratically.

While in the tree, Thomas flossed his teeth, shouldered blankets for the long haul and stuffed his ears with cotton to cut out the wail of sirens, loud music and other attempts by NYPD to encourage his surrender.

A giant airbag was below the tree.

"We're trying take care of him, make sure he's safe as well as his neighbors," an NYPD officer told neighbors.

"He feels intimated and scared. We can only hope and pray that this will end safely," neighbor Claudia Gooden said.

Neighbors said he's used to being up in the tree.

"Before, he's been up there about three or four days at a time. This is only the first time that the police have actually been called," one man said.

Some, watching from behind yellow tape, questioned the tactics being used.

"I would think that it is a sensitive situation, and that it needs people or personnel who have experience in such things," said one woman.

Watch Jennifer McLogan's report --

"NYPD should not be tasked with the responsibility of dealing with a man that obviously is in distress and is up in a tree," said Sabine French, a public advocate. "If a person is in distress, shouldn't you try to calm them down? Use tactics that's going to develop trust."

French was able to talk to Thomas, who said he wanted to talk to an officer who, like him, is of Haitian descent.

"Anybody that has any type of knowledge around communities, around culture, around ethnicity, will understand you should be able to relate to the public that you are dealing with," French said. "I want my law enforcement unit to represent my community."

"If a person has some type of mental illness, this is not the way that you deal with it," New York State Chaplain Reba Perry said.

Neighbors complained NYPD negotiators made mistakes in this sensitive case.

"It's a person who's in crisis. That's a sign of trauma, and I don't feel as if this situation is being handled as a person who is currently suffering from mental illness," French said.

CBS2 asked mental health experts what could have been done instead of the tactics that neighbors call "torturous."

"This can be very dysregulating for them, and rather than it resulting in them coming down, it might result in somebody being more afraid and more distressed and staying there for a longer period of time," psychologist Dr. Alexandra Stratyner said.

Neighbors said they believed the allegations of punching his girlfriend and harassing his mom did not warrant this NYPD attention.

Former NYPD Lieutenant Dr. Darrin Porcher, however, says they showed patience and professionalism, reminding people why they were called in the first place.

"There was no immediate need to bring him into custody, then let's wait out. Let's take all the time in the world, and let's let that individual tire himself out as opposed to risking harm or injury to the individual, the officers or a third party," Porcher told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

Police avoided forcing Thomas down, learning from the past. In 2008, officers used a taser on a naked emotionally disturbed person, which resulted in his death.

Mental health experts encourage law enforcement to seek their help in these situations.

"So that this gentleman feels safe, feels that those who are attempting to help him come down are acting in his best interest," Stratyner said.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon and Jennifer McLogan contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published Oct. 8.

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