Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose commends officers Latina Martin and Joseph Fayiah, who reunited a lost 11-year-old autistic boy with his family during a rain storm on Monday.
“I can’t say enough about what these officers did for this child, who was clearly lost and in need of assistance,’’ Director Ambrose said.
“The care that officers Martin and Fayiah showed to ensure his safety is a testament to their character and professionalism, making them compassionate guardians in the community. I commend them for their actions.’’
Lorie Newton, the boy’s mother, praised the officers and the people who cared enough to contact the police department around 4 p.m. Within minutes after she made her 911 call, Newton said she was humbled by how quickly the department was able to find her son and that he had been taken to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center to be checked out.
The boy, who wandered away from home, was lost until two people called police after they saw him in the 800 block of South 20th Street. He was sensitive to touch and didn't make eye contact. He was non-verbal and wasn't wearing shoes when the two officers responded to the neighborhood.
Martin and Fayiah, who are assigned to the 5th Precinct, knew right away that the child was on the autism spectrum and needed their help. He was nervous, cold and soaking wet while waiting with the passer-by, who kept him from running off.
“He (the boy) knew something was wrong,’’ Martin said. “He knew he wasn’t where he was supposed to be.’’
Both officers reassured the child that he was safe before driving him to the hospital where he was reunited with his mother and aunt.
“I was telling him that it’s okay,’’ Martin said. “You can come with us.’’
With a gentle touch, she and Fayiah guided the boy to their patrol car. He sat in the back seat, and let them put the seatbelt on.
“I told them (Martin and Fayiah) thank you so much,’’ Newton said. "They really did a good job with him. By the time I got to the hospital, he was smiling. He was sitting there with a muffin and juice and he was happy. I'm just glad they were able to find him before anything happened.
What the officers did was captured on their Body Worn Cameras, the device police officers wear during all interactions with the public. They became a requirement as part of police reforms that the department continues to implement under a federal consent decree in 2016.