A Naked Boy, Some Bystanders, and The Warren Police
Today, while I was on my way to an appointment, I found myself sitting in the left turn lane on southbound Ryan where it intersects with 14 Mile Road at the Sterling Heights/Warren border.
Further south of me, in the southbound lanes, I heard the screech of brakes , drawing my attention over to my right. I observed a young boy, perhaps 9 or 10 years of age, wearing nothing below the waist, barefoot, running across five lanes of Ryan’s traffic from west to east.
I was in a position to head the boy off by quickly turning into the parking lot of the BP gas station on the southeast corner of the intersection. I jumped out of my truck to run toward the child just as another passer-by coming from the other direction was doing the same thing. The two of us grabbed the boy, and after each of us realizing the other was not the boy’s father, commenced to deciding what to do next.
The boy was entirely non-verbal. I’m not an expert, but his behavior matched with what I’ve seen before in severe cases of autism. At any rate, he was clearly a special needs child. As I mentioned, he was naked except for a short t-shirt, extremely agitated, and did not appreciate being restrained. It was plain to see that he would have run back out into traffic had we let him go, so the other guy restrained him while I called 911.
You probably realize that calling 911 in this area from a cellphone results in the call being routed first through the Macomb County Emergency Operations Center. At that point, when I stated I was in Warren, they transferred the call to the Warren Police Dispatch.
Warren Police Dispatch seemed far more concerned about establishing whether or not I was in Warren then they were in dealing with the actual emergency. I was asked several times where I was, and was I sure I was in Warren? In the meantime, the extremely agitated boy was struggling with the man who was restraining him, shrieking and trying to get away while I made my phone call. After they had to repeat the question to me three times as to whether the boy was black or white, I was finally able to answer what few questions they had, and then, supposedly the police were on their way, so I disconnected the call.
Next up was trying to get the boy covered. I keep a small plastic tarp in my truck, so we wrapped it around the boy, who was still struggling, but calmed a bit when someone handed him a bottle of water. We tried to speak soothingly to the boy, me in English, the other man in Arabic, as it seemed the boy was likely of Middle Eastern descent. The boy wasn’t too fond of the tarp, but this incident was drawing a crowd and it seemed to be the right thing to do.
Ten minutes went by with no police car. It wasn’t a long period of time, but it seemed like an eternity while we were trying to keep this poor kid from getting himself killed in traffic.
Then, a black GMC Terrain pulled into the gas station, and a man in his 40s jumped out speaking rapidly in Arabic. The other man helping me restrain the boy translated for me that he was the boy’s father, and the man led the boy into the back seat of the SUV.
I was terribly conflicted by this. The police still hadn’t shown up and things were happening just a bit too quickly. Who knows who this man claiming to be the father really was? The boy was agitated, the ‘father’ upset, the other man helping me restrain the boy was willing to turn the boy over seemingly without question, and I didn’t want to make a chaotic situation worse by demanding that everyone just stay put until the police arrived. Mind you, I was going to be late for my appointment, but that seemed to be pretty far down on my list of concerns.
So I wrote down the vehicle’s license plate and description, and called 911 back. The county routed me to Warren PD; the dispatcher answered the call and I gave them the update that the boy was being taken away.
The dispatcher said “So, did the boy’s father arrive? He called us and said he was coming to get his son.” Evidently, the police were not on their way. They somewhat reluctantly took down the information I had for them, seeming a bit skeptical that anything could be amiss, but willing to do so just to get me off the phone.
I may be making some unfair assumptions here, but it seems like the Warren PD was willing to accept, sight unseen, that the man in the SUV was indeed the boy’s father, just on the strength of a phone call. Again, I’m sure a few 911 calls all transpired at the same time because of this, and I have no idea what all was said, but from my point of view it didn’t look like there was any way to be sure what was going on.
When it was all said and done, the boy was gone. The Warren Police were done with the case without having even sent out a squad car. The other bystanders concluded that everything was fine and went on their way. I remained behind, the only one, apparently, wondering if what had just happened was the right thing, calling 911 just to be sure.
I don’t know what the police protocol is for cases such as this, so I don’t actually know if this is what they would normally do. I don’t know if all the underlying assumptions apparently made here by Warren PD were made safely. What I do know is that I had hoped for and expected more than what the Warren PD did in handling this. It just seems like there were a lot of cracks in the process this boy could have fallen through. I sincerely hope that it would have been handled a bit differently if it had happened in Sterling Heights instead of where it did.
Maybe I’m a bit paranoid. Perhaps there was no other reasonable explanation for the man who showed up other than that he was actually the father. I am reminded of the dictum that when you are involved in a defensive gun use, you had better make sure that you’re the first one on the phone to 911, because they assume the first caller is, in fact the victim. Is that a safe assumption? I don’t know, but I am skeptical.
Is it a safe assumption that the boy has been reunited with his father and all is well? I certainly hope so, but I’ll probably never know.