An off-duty New York police officer is being hailed as a hero after saving the life of a 6-year-old boy with autism who had managed to get out of school and go missing last week without anybody noticing.
According to the New York Post, 6-year-old Ibrahim Awawda is in a program for disabled children at a Brooklyn public school, and he has a full-time paraprofessional assigned to stay with him, because he is fast, energetic, has limited speech skills, and needs to be watched constantly. His mother says she’s made clear to the school that he can’t be left unsupervised.
On December 2, though, Ibrahim’s aide left early and he was put with some other students, and then left unsupervised. He managed to walk out a door onto a busy street and take off without anybody at the school noticing.
New York schools are supposed to be fitted with door alarms and have the exits monitored, after a similar incident in 2013 led to the death of a 14-year-old boy with autism. No alarms or cameras reportedly went off when Ibrahim left the school, though. It’s not yet clear why they didn’t go off–if they were disabled, defective, or not present at all–but they were supposed to be there and working, and they were not.
The bus came to take the children home about half an hour later, and that’s when the teachers noticed Ibrahim was missing, and told the bus driver that he must have gone home already with his mother. The bus driver, however, is apparently the smartest person in the room, because he’s the one who thought, “Maybe one of us should call the mother and check.”
The parents were understandably horrified by the bus driver’s phone call. They did not have their son, and the school did not know where he was. They must also have been acutely aware of the 2013 case where the same exact thing happened to another boy, and that boy died.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim had wandered several blocks away and was wandering the halls of a random apartment building, trying to open all the doors. That’s when 26-year-old police officer Christian Lopez looked out and saw the unattended 6-year-old heading up to the building’s roof, so he ran after him. Ibrahim was reportedly leaning over the ledge when Lopez caught up with him and grabbed him.
Lopez went to call 911, and that’s when he saw the missing child alert on his phone and let the authorities know that Ibrahim was found and was safe now. (On top of being a hero, Lopez is also really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Seriously, he looks like a dang model. Check out his picture over on The Post.) Ibrahim’s parents were ecstatic and relieved to have their son back unharmed.
Lopez is wonderful and it’s a huge relief that Ibrahim was OK, but he shouldn’t have been able to escape like that in the first place. A lot of mistakes were made here. Ibrahim was supposed to be monitored by a full-time aide and never left unsupervised. It makes no sense that a 6-year-old could disappear and the school would just think, “Eh, he was probably picked up by his mother” and the bus driver was the only one who thought to call and confirm.
There should be more measures in place to make sure this doesn’t happen, and there are supposed to be. Everyone in this story is really lucky. If Lopez hadn’t stuck his head out the door when he did, this story could have had a terrible ending.