Mtn. View Police Chief Jamie Perkins took to social media this week to honor and recognize a police officer for his “exemplary work” in bringing a toddler found wandering toward a highway to safety.
Cpl. Trenton Roberts with the police department was praised by Perkins for his quick response and for caring for the 2-year-old boy while parents could not be found.
“On June 26, Cpl. Roberts was notified of a small child, alone and walking along the edge of Highway 17. The child was alone and lost,” wrote Perkins in a letter of commendation posted to the department’s Facebook page Thursday evening.
“Cpl. Roberts, unable to locate the child’s parents, took a child into protective custody, transferred the child to the police department, retrieved clean clothing and diapers from his own home for the child and personally cleaned and cared for the child,” Perkins explained. “Due to Cpl. Roberts’ quick response and care, the child is safe and a tragedy was avoided.”
Detective Stetson Schwien with the department said it was Roberts’ extra effort to bring clean clothes from home that caught his superiors’ attention.
“He has a couple of kids running around at about that same age, that’s how he was able to get those clothes,” said Schwien. “But he doesn’t mention that in his own report. That’s kind of why we wanted to recognize him.”
Schwien provided the Quill with a copy of the police report made by Roberts, which notes that the case is still open and charges are pending.
According to Roberts, at about 9:45 a.m. June 26, he was dispatched to Dunkin Street for a small child walking in the middle of the road. Dunkin Street is a one-block stretch of road in a small trailer park across south Highway 17 from the Mtn. View Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Roberts said that on arrival, he saw child, about 2 years old, walking east on Dunkin Street toward the highway.
“The child was alone and appeared to be lost,” he reported. “The only person outside was identified as the caller who had made sure the child had not walked onto the highway until law enforcement arrived.”
The toddler was unable to speak and therefore couldn’t say his name or where he lived, wrote Roberts. An effort to knock on doors in the area to find the parents proved fruitless as no one could identify the child or his parents, so Roberts asked the dispatcher to make arrangements with the Department of Children and Family Services in West Plains to take custody of the child.
The barefoot toddler was only wearing pajama bottoms, soiled by an overly full and leaking diaper, Roberts wrote, and he was covered in leaves, bug bites and scratches on the upper part of his body. Roberts said he worried it was possible the boy had been wandering for an extended time.
In the report’s only hint as to his own efforts toward caring for the child, Roberts wrote, “The child was taken into protective custody and was transported to the police department and was cared for while waiting for the children’s division investigator to arrive.”
When the investigator showed up, Roberts said he was the one to authorize alternative care.
It was 10:43 p.m. and no calls had yet been made to the department regarding a missing child, he wrote.
At that point, Roberts said, he returned to the trailer park to try again to find the parents. At 11:25 a.m., he was dispatched to Falck Street, two blocks east of Dunkin Street in the same park, for a report of a child missing for 30 minutes. The description of the child matched the one he had found nearly an hour and a half earlier.
The 22-year-old mother, whose name is redacted from the report, identified the child from a photograph as her son, Roberts reported, and said she had woken at 10:30 a.m. to find the child missing.
She told Roberts her boyfriend had come home from work that morning and did not lock a padlock on the door, and that her child must have opened the door and walked out of the home without her knowing.
Roberts reported that the mother’s boyfriend looked around the neighborhood for the child and about an hour after becoming aware of the child’s disappearance, the mother called the police.
A later home visit with another children’s division investigator found the home appeared sanitary for children, including the 6 month old still in the home and not taken into custody. Both adults reportedly admitted to occasional marijuana use, but denied any other drug use.
The boyfriend said he arrived home at 8 a.m. and left the top padlock of the door unlocked, said Roberts, and both parents said they would childproof the house to acceptable standards.