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Man battling mental illness falls through ice in Milwaukee River, drowns: Medical Examiner

The medical examiner ruled his death as asphyxia due to fresh water drowning.
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Posted at 12:31 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 15:33:05-05

MILWAUKEE — A 31-year-old man battling mental illness was walking on top of the ice on the Milwaukee River on the city's lower east side when the ice broke and he plunged into the cold water below. First responders recovered his body about 20 minutes later.

The man, identified as Jeffrey D. Bishop, 31 years old, was later pronounced dead at Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Milwaukee. This was the incident that drew dive teams and dozens of fire fighters and police officers near the bridge at Pleasant and Water streets on Monday.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office report on Tuesday states Bishop jumped out of the second story window of his home on North Marshall Street and ran several blocks west to the river.

The report states a witness saw a man walking out on the ice "and then just disappearing."

A neighbor in an adjacent apartment reported seeing Bishop break the home's window and jump out. She reported she had tried yelling at him, "Don't do that you'll get hurt." He replied, "I am already hurt," according to the neighbor in the ME's report.

Investigators believe Bishop was struggling with psychotic issues. They found his apartment in a state of disarray.

The original 911 call was to his apartment. Police lost track of him until someone reported a person in the river.

The medical examiner ruled his death as asphyxia due to fresh water drowning.

The fire department said in an initial release that crews had pulled a pulseless, non-breathing person from the icy waters.

"Ice rescues are extremely dangerous and the MFD trains extensively on this type of rescue. It involves placing divers and firefighters in specialized ice-rescue suits and requires very specific measures to traverse the ice, secure a victim, once found, and accomplish a safe removal. This rescue was also accomplished with the help of our Heavy Urban Rescue Team," said Deputy Chief Erich Roden in a statement on Monday.

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