A Northern California mother called police last week after her adult son who has autism went missing — and the speedy rescue that followed created a viral moment on social media.
“When a call comes in like that, it turns into all hands on deck,” said Rohnert Park Police Chief Tim Mattos, KTVU reports. “That was a serious call. We wanted to make sure he was found.”
Diane Grumley said her 31-year-old son Lance disappeared from their apartment in the Sonoma County town on the morning of May 8.
“He went down to open the garage like he always does, and I didn’t really know he went out the door,’’ Grumley said of her son, whose disability means he always needs to be with a caregiver, according to KTVU.
Grumley said she asked neighbors if they’d seen Lance, and though one person said he was seen skipping and dancing on a bike path, the mother couldn’t track him down, KTVU reports.
Officers started looking for the missing man on foot and in police cars. Officer Justin Thompson, who had met Lance Grumley before, used his motorcycle to search a raised path that led over a creek — and that’s where Thompson discovered a “scared and upset” Lance Grumley, ABC10 reports.
“When the man saw Officer Thompson, he looked a little relieved but was still stressed,” said Rohnert Park police Lt. Jeff Justice, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “So Officer Thompson, having previous contact with him … took off his helmet so he could see who he was and gave him the hug to help calm him down.”
Rohnert Park police shared a photo of that exact moment on Facebook, where it has been shared hundreds of times since last week.
“Motor Officer Justin Thompson is really feeling the love today after locating a missing resident on the creek path,” police wrote.
KTVU’s Frank Somerville shared the images as well, bringing the total number of likes on the photo into the thousands.
“It’s just a really good example of Officer Thompson showing that caring and human side,” Justice said, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “Police officers are human beings as well as everyone else and we understand and appreciate things that people in our community go through, and want to connect with people in our community to make it a better and safer place.”
Thompson is a 20-year veteran of the Rohnert Park police, as well as “a member of the department’s peer support team, a source of emotional support in traumatic cases,” Yahoo reports.
Thanks to Thompson’s quick work, Lance Grumley was missing for less than an hour before he was found and reunited with his “relieved and thankful” mother, Yahoo reports.