Sunday, March 01, 2009

Gone

A Mom gathered 2 of her kids and headed out to the grocery store leaving her 3 year old son home with Dad. About an hour into the shopping trip, Dad called his wife to ask if she brought the 3 year old with her to the store.
"No", she replied. "I told you I was leaving him home with you."
"That's what I thought but I can't find him anywhere and was hoping he was with you."

Mom raced home to find her husband checking the house for every possible hiding place. They screamed his name and double checked every room. The front door was unlocked when she left for the store and the son had gone outside in the past to play in the front yard or with the other neighborhood kids.

She dials 911 and is on the verge of hysteria. Convinced her son has been kidnapped she is paralyzed with fear. My trainee and I arrive first at the house but don't see the parents. Mom is running door to door recruiting an army of frantic neighbors desperately searching for the boy. Mom sees us and runs over sobbing uncontrollably. We do our best to get the boy's description, clothing, and possible destinations. She tells us Dad is driving around the area and several neighbors can be heard yelling his name and checking bushes, garages, and cars.

I ask the mother if she has a swimming pool. Her eyes widen with terror and whimpers, "no, but my neighbors do." She had not thought of this possibility and I could tell my question sent her mind to an unknown level of desperation. I tell her, "Calm down. We're going to find your boy." I look her directly in the eyes as I speak and hope she believes my assurance. I tell her to wait out in front of the house in case he wandered by.

With several other officers in the area, I go into the house to make sure the boy's not there. My Sergeant has arrived and is also checking inside the home. As I'm looking under beds and opening cupboards, I hear my Sergeant announce, "He's right here." He gets on the radio and advises the other officers the boy has been found. I join him in a girl's bedroom and see the little guy wrapped in a sleeping bag fast asleep in the closet.

I walk towards the front door feeling the exhilaration building inside me. I know my next words will affect Mom in a way she's probably never felt or even anticipated.

"Mom.", I say. "We found him. He's inside."
"WHAT!!" she shrieks.
"He's fine...sleeping in the bedroom closet."

Mom released a scream of fearful elation as she bolted for the house yelling her son's name. She ran into the boy's bedroom so I redirected her to his older sister's bedroom across the hall. She ran over to the closet, fell to her knees and scooped up the bundle of bedding and boy. She repeatedly screamed his name as the outpouring emotion took over. The boy awoke confused and dazed to be in his hysterical mother's arms.

"Oh my God, he's never done this before. I checked everywhere and yelled for him. I can't believe he was sleeping in there the whole time.", mom cried.

I told her to call her husband and let him know his boy was safe.

As I walked outside to my patrol car, mom carried her boy out into the yard to thank the neighbor's for their immediate and dedicated help. Dad pulled up and got out of his car. His cheeks were streaked with tears of relief, fear, and guilt. He gave me a smile and a nod since speech had not yet returned to his faculty of senses. He joined his wife and son with a long embrace.

I saw raw emotions that day like I've never experienced close up. I can't imagine the feeling of believing one of my own kids to be missing. I know how the mind races towards the unthinkable when panic and fear set in. I'm just glad this time the 'unthinkable' was an overlooked boy safe asleep in his sister's closet.

17 Comments:

At March 01, 2009 2:27 AM, Blogger JKR said...

In the Citizen's Police Academy, we learned that your procedure for a missing persons report is to search the place they're missing from first, and then expand the search. It sounds like this one was conducted by the book, and it ended up being to everyone's benefit. I'm glad everything turned out ok!

Having dispatched for GCSO for a couple years, I "received, processed and transmitted" quite a few missing person reports that ended up with a very similar outcome to the one you outlined in this blog entry.

In fact, my family and I had our very own similar situation last November when we participated in the Walk on the Wild Side(to benefit Multiple Sclerosis research) at Papago Park. Toward the end of the walk, my younger brothers, age 7 and 12, became separated from us. Although the level of tension didn't reach hysteria, it became intense for my family, who do not live in the Phoenix area, to be separated from their boys in the big bad city.

I ended up moving forward with the crowd, figuring that the boys may have gone ahead and finished the walk. Imagine my surprise and my family's relief when I found the boys sitting nonchalantly on the median of the closed roadway, resting and waiting for us.

I guess it goes to show that when one does become separated from his or her children, it's very important to stay calm, reasoned, and logical. Based on my experiences, I think there should be some sort of community training(just like CPR and lamaze classes) to teach parents what to do when their kids get lost. It may save a little emotional taxation on the parents' part, and free up some resources on the police end of things if parents have a few simple things they know to try before they panic.

 
At March 01, 2009 8:25 AM, Blogger Sean said...

Great one - thanks for sharing. I can relate both as a cop and as a father; there have been a number of times where I've come home from a missing child call, or even worse one hurt in an accident or abuse, and just had to hug my kids and be grateful...

 
At March 01, 2009 10:17 AM, Blogger RoaVaPD said...

There is nothing worse than checking swimming pools for missing children. Luckily I haven't found any there yet.

 
At March 01, 2009 2:08 PM, Blogger Officer "Smith" said...

As soon as you mentioned the swimming pool my heart skipped a beat... or maybe two.

Finding the kid asleep in the house was the best ending to that situation. It could have been much worse in so many ways.

I hate missing kid calls.

 
At March 01, 2009 3:41 PM, Anonymous Spartan Cops said...

Excellent story. You captured the intense emotions of the moment well.

 
At March 01, 2009 4:16 PM, Anonymous Rebecca said...

As a mother, I know there is nothing like the fear of not being able to find your child.

 
At March 01, 2009 5:43 PM, Blogger Teri Kathleen said...

Oh my goodness!!! Thank goodness he was alright! I had a moment like this when my son was little. He was hiding behind curtains looking out the window. (found before called cops but after called my parents while i was searching house...still get grief from them 4 years later)

Love to read real life happy endings! Keep up the good work!

 
At March 02, 2009 1:19 AM, Blogger mrs. fuzz said...

Geez, my heart was pounding reading this. My daughter hid in our van one day while we were outside playing at a friend's. We were yelling and screaming her name for a good 10-15 minutes. this was a corner house on a busy street and near a bus stop and I absolutely freaked-thought she had been taken. When we found her in the van, she said she had heard us screaming, but she was playing hide-n-seek. She learned a lesson that day.

Anyway, glad to hear a good ending.

 
At March 02, 2009 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great outcome for the family. When my youngest was 4, he let himself out of the house and locked the door behind him. We did not realize he was even gone. He wandered towards 44th st until the neighbors saw him and brought him home. My heart almost stopped when I realized he left the house. That same day deadbolts and security doors were put on our house.
Kim and Fernando

 
At March 03, 2009 2:42 PM, Blogger whimsical brainpan said...

It must be great to have a happy ending like that every once and a while.

 
At March 05, 2009 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow you must be the stud of the department. You must be the best FTO Phoenix has ever had. Imagine the look of admiration your trainie must have had, saying to himself " that's my FTO ".

I hope that someday I can grow to be as good as you.

 
At April 08, 2010 12:01 PM, Blogger Sarah G said...

My brother disappeared like this when he was about two. Mother looked all over the house and was frantic.

He was asleep in a closet, too. With our cat and her kittens. The mama cat had her paw over his head, like he was one of her own...

Glad this case had a good ending.

 
At November 10, 2011 8:17 AM, Anonymous dui attorney arizona said...

Fair justice was served. It;s the most important thing.

 
At March 08, 2012 10:15 AM, Blogger Sunshine said...

wow...

 
At April 27, 2013 5:23 PM, Blogger oldandtired said...

When our boy was about 2 or 3 my wife called me at the car dealership I worked. Our son was missing. I told her to call 911 and grabbed the fastest car we had, an LHS Chrysler. Almost hoping a cop would stop me or follow me to our house, I drove up to 80 in town. Still, before I got home in three minutes they found him sleeping in the big room downstairs, sitting along the wall among some large stuffed animals. Whew!

 
At July 02, 2013 10:56 PM, Blogger Jeff Owens said...

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At September 20, 2013 8:50 AM, Anonymous bail bondsmen in Las Vegas said...

That is an encouraging story for parents. I feel like still going home and hugging my two little ones right now!

 

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