Fire Battalion Chief Marc Bentovoja said the man appears to have died accidentally of asphyxiation when he created a harness from the rope and lowered himself down the east side of the office building.
"From everything we can tell, he didn't have any special rope rappelling equipment on, climbing equipment or anything like that," he said. "He appeared to be looped into the rope."
Police department spokeswoman Michele Gigante said Monday afternoon that investigators found a can of spray paint on the part of a balcony where the ropes were anchored. A tool for etching glass was found on the ground below his body, she said.
Gigante said building surveillance showed the man entering the building alone on Sunday. Police believe he gained access to the roof of the nearly 240-foot building and lowered himself three floors down to the balcony before lowering himself again.
Police and fire crews responded after receiving a call at 7:44 a.m. Monday. Rescue personnel were seen rappelling down the side of the building to check on the man, but he was already dead. The body was retrieved shortly after 9 a.m.
The coroner's office will conduct an autopsy to determine the official cause of death. It is not releasing the man's identity until his relatives are notified.
Bentovoja said the man did not appear to work for the building.
Formally named the 1201 K Tower, the building houses offices for lobbyists, public relations businesses and law firms that do business two blocks away at the Capitol.
The man's death comes less than three weeks after police say a 22-year-old convicted graffiti tagger fell to his death while spray-painting a freeway bridge in Sacramento. Gigante said the deaths were unrelated.