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Officer Thinks About Writing Panhandler A Ticket, Tells Him To Get Into His Cruiser Instead

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Note: we are republishing this story in lieu of a nationwide discussion regarding police accountability and the often strained relationship between police officers and their communities. This article highlights that there are good cops out there who go above and beyond to help their local community.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Swalwell has seen the same older man begging drivers for money at a busy freeway off ramp for years.

"It's a safety issue, and that was more of a concern than the panhandling," he said.

One day, the deputy’s plan was to write the man a ticket, but when he asked him for his ID, the conversation shifted.

Swalwell said of the interaction: "Got to know him pretty quickly, and realized that a citation's not what this man needs."

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

The man, 66-year-old Michael Myers, told the officer that he had been a truck driver until he got into a bad accident that left him disabled. He spent a year in a wheelchair and another on crutches.

When he tried to go back to work, first working in manufacturing and then food service, he quickly realized that being on his feet and lifting things caused him too much pain. Myers said: "When you have a serious broken-back injury, you never really recover from it."

He turned to panhandling because he couldn’t work, most recently on the corner of Foothill BLVD. and Mattox Rd., one of the busiest off-ramps in the city. Swalwell said: "He does it three times a day. He's not panhandling for alcohol or drugs -- he's panhandling to stay alive."

Myers has a routine – he works his way around the four sides of the intersection as the traffic lights change. Once he’s gotten five or ten dollars, he walks to a McDonald’s a few blocks away. For years, begging for money and eating fast food has become his way of life.

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Referring to his conversation with deputy Swalwell, Myers said: "He said, 'You can't go on doing this. What's it gonna take to get you off the street?' I said, 'Well, a government check would do it, but I can't seem to get one.'"

Myers needed a state-issued ID to get benefits, but he hadn’t had one in years after he stopped driving. Instead of writing him a ticket, the deputy drove Myers to the DMV where they encountered a new problem.

"I'm no longer in the system. I don't exist anymore according to the DMV," Myers stated.

To obtain a California ID card, he needed proof of residency and a birth certificate, things that were difficult for Myers to get because he lived on the streets and never knew his biological parents.

Swalwell agreed to help Myers get the necessary documents. First, they got a letter from a church which attested that Myers resided in Hayward, and then a copy of his birth certificate from Highland Hospital where he was born.

Myers was surprised by the details on his birth certificate: "I get my birth certificate and it says my name is Gordon Michael Myers!" He never knew about his first name.

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

Photo Credit: KPIX CBS SF Bay Area

After three DMV visits, he was issued a California Senior Citizen ID card, which he held up proudly as Swalwell snapped a picture. The photo quickly went viral on Facebook. "I walked in McDonalds to eat breakfast, and the guys I usually sit with go, 'Hey, you're famous, man!' and whipped out his phone and there I am on his phone," Myers stated.

He is now closer to getting social security and has received some job offers because of his Facebook fame. "It's taught me to get to know people better," Swalwell stated.

Sgt. Ray Kelly stated that this lesson could become policy at the Sheriff’s Office. "I think we're gonna bring it to all our trainings and say, 'Hey, if you have the ability to do something like this, let's go ahead and do it,'" he stated.

Myers hopes that law enforcement officers will follow Swalwell's lead. "He treated me like a friend," Myers said.

Sources: ABC 7 News

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