Cop Steps Up When Boy's Public Meltdown Is Mistaken for Kidnapping Incident
Tara Keegan was in the process of transferring her 8-year-old son Caleb to his tutor’s car near a convenience store in Clayton, North Carolina, last month when he had a meltdown. Caleb, who has autism, bolted from the parking lot and ran towards the road. After chasing after her son, Keegan carried him back to their car. A concerned eyewitness called the police fearing a child abduction was in progress. Clayton police officer Jeff Young arrived on the scene.
After asking Keegan and Caleb some preliminary questions, Officer Young and his partner gave the two plenty of space to get settled back in the car.
“He (Young) could have made a bad situation worse,” Keegan told the town’s official website, townofclaytonnc.org. (When Caleb was 6, the family had an unpleasant experience with a law enforcement officer after he’d eloped from home.) “Instead, Officer Young spent upwards of an hour with Caleb, and it really made him feel safe.”
Keegan told The Mighty she had no problem with the bystander calling the cops, as what was unfolding very well might have looked like a kidnapping. After Caleb calmed down, Young gave him a tour of the Clayton Police Department and introduced him to the department’s K-9 officers, Abel and Major.
“People like (Officer Young) not only change lives, but they encourage others to meet people where they are without shame or judgment,” Keegan wrote in a thank you note on her Facebook page, according to townofclaytonnc.org. “In fact, my son said, ‘I liked that cop ’cause he didn’t say I was bad or not normal.’”
On Friday, Keegan shared the story during a breakfast meeting at the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, where she thanked Officer Young, who was in attendance. Keegan sent The Mighty a copy of the speech she read. She praised Young for handling the situation and for helping her speak out about her son.
“Officer Young was the first person Caleb has come into contact with that accepted him and made him feel special,” she wrote in the speech. “I am used to people having ridiculous opinions, notions and advice; he had none of that. He just had empathy and grace. A lot of feelings go along with having a child with autism – feelings you certainly don’t share with many. To put Caleb’s diagnosis on public display has been huge for me in both healing and accepting. Officer Young is a major contributor to me being able to do so.”
“Law enforcement and EMTs need to be aware of how these children operate,” Keegan told The Mighty when asked what other cities and states can do to follow Clayton’s lead.