A Los Angeles Police Department Hollenbeck Division officer said the man climbed an electrical pole at the intersection of Marengo and North State streets about 1:50 a.m.
The officer said the man touched a 360-volt line about 3:15 a.m. and was thrown off the pole by the shock and struck a traffic light during his fall.
Both the officer and a videographer at the scene said the man had begun to descend the pole, but then changed his mind and climbed up again.
The videographer said the man was sitting on a ledge of the pole, then pushed himself sideways and grabbed the high voltage line.
The videographer said the man's fall was broken by one of two rescue pads set up by Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters.
The man was taken to a hospital, where he was in critical condition, said Officer Liliana Preciado of the LAPD's Media Relations Section.
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