Off-duty law enforcement officers stepped in to rescue a child with autism from a Milwaukee river.
While at a Milwaukee Brewers game on July 26, a father approached Milwaukee Police officer Juan Lopez to report his 6-year-old child, who has been diagnosed with autism, was nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile outside the ballpark, off-duty detective Alexander Ayala and officer Jose Acevedo were tailgating as part of a fundraiser for the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Lopez, Ayala and Acevedo, along with officer Michael Maldonado, began searching the area around the stadium. A woman said she saw a child on the pedestrian bridge near the Menomonee River.
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"We heard someone yell, hey, there's a kid in the river," Acevedo said. "So right away, instincts kicked in."
"Me and Officer Acevedo, we just took off running, went down the stairs, went down the hill, and then jumped in the river to get the little boy,” Ayala recalled. "At one point, I bent down to scoop him up out of the water. He actually went underwater, and that’s when I decided to grab him and pick him up."
Forming a chain, the officers handed the child back to his father. The boy was not harmed during the incident.
"Thank God everything was OK and he wasn't hurt," Acevedo said.
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The Milwaukee Police Department recounted the situation and praised the officers on Facebook on July 27.
"The quick response by everyone involved prevented a potentially dangerous situation and demonstrated that officers, even when off-duty, are always there to help the community," the department wrote.
Local residents lauded the department’s actions as well, including parents of children with autism.
"As a mother with an autistic son, I love that this had a good outcome!" Randa McArthur commented on the post. "I've seen many stories like this with a different outcome. Thank you!"
"Awesome Job!" Rebecca Ann said. "Glad we fed you guys all those cookies at the tailgate before the game!"
"SO glad this episode ended with the child found unharmed and safely returned to his family," said Phyllis Rayca.
"We really believe that the MPD does their best," said Sheryl Funk.