In May 2016, a woman called 911 to report her teenage son missing. He had a history of violence and he was potentially suicidal. He also had autism.
Soon after the 911 call, two officers spotted the teen, Jeremiah, but they were having a problem with the teenager. Then Officer Tim Purdy arrived on the scene.
Officer Purdy had just started his day when he heard two police officers over the radio talking about Jeremiah.
The 22-year police veteran with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department drove to the area where Jeremiah was found. When he arrived her saw two officers struggling to restrain the autistic teen.
“So as I approached them I just kind of got down on my knees and tried to get to his level,” Purdy told CNN.
Officer Purdy quickly diffused the situation by connecting with the teen. The two spoke about football, his family, and school.
One of the officers on the scene took a photo of Jeremiah and Officer Purdy and it went viral.
Officer Purdy, who says his reaction wasn’t something he learned in training, instead it was “just something that I’ve learned over the years,” also said that the photo and his reaction helped bring awareness to those who live with autism.
“It’s important that they [families of those who have autism] understand that there are good officers out there that when there’s a situation involving their son or daughter that we can handle it appropriately without any injury or any harm coming to that individual or police officer,” he said in a video shared to the department’s Facebook page.
By getting down to his level and speaking with him, Officer Purdy was able to help Jeremiah.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department point out that this type of interaction happens daily with police departments across the country, this one just happened to be caught on camera.
“There’s more to policing than making arrests and enforcing the law,” the police department wrote on their Facebook page. “Sometimes taking those extra little steps makes the biggest difference in someone’s life.”