When Officer Brandon Sheffert headed out on patrol in September 2014, he had no idea that he was about to have an encounter that would change the course of his life—and the life of a complete stranger.
The Peoria, Arizona officer was on duty, patrolling the neighborhood with his partner. It was an ordinary day—until he saw a sight that caught his attention.
It was a teenage boy, sweaty from sprinting at top speed down a busy street.
Sheffert was concerned and decided to stop him and find out what he was doing.
The runner, 16-year-old Anthony Schultz, told the officers he wasn’t doing anything wrong, just training for a wrestling match. But Sheffert still felt there was more to the situation.
“Something about it bugged me, because I couldn’t get through to him,” Sheffert told KSAZ.
“He just seemed like there was something going on, and that there was something that was hurtful going on that he wouldn’t say.”
So before letting the teen go on his way, the officers decided to make some friendly conversation with him, asking him about his interests.
They had no idea the impression the small talk made on Schultz.
“Before that, no one really asked me what I wanted to do when I get older,” Schultz recalled to CNN.
“I felt as if he cared instantly.”
But Sheffert was right—there was something going on at home.
Schultz lived in a one-bedroom apartment with seven other family members. It was a rough living situation—which brought Officer Sheffert right back into his life, when he responded to a domestic altercation.
When he recognized the teen, he realized his instinct had been correct.
“There was a lot of alcohol and other stuff going on with the family,” Sheffert told CNN.
After seeing his rough home life, Sheffert became concerned about the teen, worried he too might slip into dangerous behavior—so he decided to pay him a visit whenever he could.
“I kept coming over here, talking to him, spending time with him, getting to know him, getting to know the family, understand what’s going on,” he told KSAZ.
But it was more than making sure he wasn’t in trouble.
As he got to know Schultz better, he became a much-needed mentor in the teen’s life.
“I think he had a rough go,” Sheffert told CNN. “He didn’t have his dad in the picture. I don’t think he had a solid male role model, ever.”
And his influence made a lasting impression on Schultz:
“I had a role model,” he told KSAZ.
“I had someone I could look up to. I had someone I could aspire to be.”
Everything seemed to be working out—but things suddenly took a turn when Sheffert received a shocking call from Schultz’s mother.
“‘You need to come take him. I can’t take him anymore,'” Sheffert recounted to KSAZ. “I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. That doesn’t make sense.'”
But it was true.
His own mother was kicking him out—a decision that devastated Schultz.
“It was one of the saddest moments in my life,” Schultz told CNN. “My own mom didn’t want me to be there. She chose a guy over me and I didn’t appreciate that.”
Sheffert was devastated, too. He knew the teen had no other family, no place to go—he knew he was the only one he had to help him.
“This kid just keeping getting hit over and over with things that no kid should have to go through,” Sheffert told KSAZ.
Sheffert had a wife and two young kids at home. But they agreed to make room and open up their home to Schultz for as long as he needed.
They were surprised by how quickly the teen blended in—and became just like family.
“It’s kind of odd when he’s not around,” Sheffert told CNN.
“I can’t imagine my life without him around. I don’t think anybody else can, either.”
The family unofficially adopted Schultz. The teen was just grateful to finally be in a stable home—and he appreciated the little things people take for granted.
“I don’t have to worry about food,” Schultz told KSAZ. “I don’t have to worry about other things some kids shouldn’t have to worry about.”
Taking Schultz in has allowed Sheffert to continue his mentoring. Since entering his new home, Sheffert has experienced milestones like learning to drive and getting his first job.
“He taught me skills,” Schultz told CNN. “He’s the reason I’ve gotten my first few jobs. He’s given me the ability to look forward into the Army and pick careers that I could do.”
“He’s taught me everything I need to know.”
Not only that, Schultz improved his grades and graduated high school—the first person in his family to graduate on time, another reminder of how things could’ve gone differently had he stayed under their influence. Now that Schultz is over 18, the Shefferts still consider him their son.
“If [Sheffert] weren’t there that night, there would be no one else, in my opinion,” said Schultz. “I don’t think I would be here. I wouldn’t be the person I am. I could be in jail for all I know.”
A completely new chance at life, all thanks to an encounter with a complete stranger.
“One person can make a difference in any person’s life,” said Schultz. “Brandon [Sheffert]’s that person that made a difference in my life.”