Police officers are faced with many challenges during their course of duty, including being presented with unexpected demands. In this case, necessity required these deputies demonstrate their soft side towards these children, and the law-abiding hard side towards their intoxicated father.
Deputies with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico were on duty around midnight on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, when a swerving vehicle caught their attention. Deputies Roger Garcia and Sam Rodriguez pulled the car over and were faced with a man who looked and acted inebriated. Jeffrey Salas, 24, was heavily under the influence of alcohol.
The sad and shocking reality was that there were three small children with him in the vehicle: a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, and an infant of 2 months. The 2-month-old was in an unbuckled car seat.
Coming to the father, “We had to remove him from the kids’ view. The last thing we wanted to do was expose these kids to a negative law enforcement (encounter) with their father,” Rodriguez told KOAT.
“What hurt me the most is when we asked about the last time they ate, they couldn’t remember,” Garcia told CNN News.
Garcia mixed some baby formula under a flashlight, while Rodriguez wrapped the infant in a blanket that he got from his church while feeding the baby.
“It was a bunch of cops in uniform trying to make a bottle on the side of the road. We had a cold water bottle and we’re trying to use our heater to warm up the water for him,” said Rodriguez.
“I’ve always babysat since I was a kid, but I’ve never done it with a gun on my belt in the passenger seat of a patrol car with a rifle next to me,” Rodriguez continued.
Three other deputies arrived to help; one helped change the infant’s dirty diaper, and the others went and bought the kids McDonald’s to eat.
“It was really hard to be professional when we had such strong opinions about the morality of the situation. We really tried to keep it together for the welfare of the kids. We tried to be happy with them and give them a secure feeling,” Rodriguez said.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office’s picture of cops caring for the infant garnered praise from many social media users.
One user wrote, “Nice!!! Thank u for all u do of unconditional love and kindness officers u r heaven sent.”
While another sympathetic user wrote: “God bless you. You used professionalism and compassion and did the hard job that needed to be done. I pray that the children are able to grow up to be physically and mentally healthy and that the father is able to successfully overcome his addiction so he can become the father he needs to be.”
“Taking care of citizens of all sizes!” a third one added.
Thank you to Deputies R. Garcia and S. Rodriguez for caring for an infant that was inside a drunk driver's vehicle!
Rodriguez isn’t a father yet, but after seeing the pictures of him feeding the baby, his wife said, “Honey, it’s time to start a family.”
The drunk father, Salas, was arrested. Later that night, the kids were released to the Children Youth and Families Department.
Though this incident occurred in 2016, these men really went above their call of duty to care for the kids.