Police officers are faced with many challenges during their course of duty, including being presented with unexpected demands. In this case, necessity required these deputies demonstrate their soft side towards these children, and the law-abiding hard side towards their intoxicated father.
Deputies with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico were on duty when a swerving vehicle caught their attention. Deputies Roger Garcia and Sam Rodriguez pulled the car over and were faced with a man who looked and acted inebriated. Jeffrey Salas, 24, was heavily under the influence of alcohol.
The sad and shocking reality was that there were three small children with him in the vehicle. The children were aged 5 years, 2 years, and an infant of 2 months. The 2-month-old was in an unbuckled car seat.
Coming to the father, “We had to remove him from the kids’ view. The last thing we wanted to do was expose these kids to a negative law enforcement (encounter) with their father,” Rodriguez said.
“What hurt me the most is when we asked about the last time they ate, they couldn’t remember,” Garcia said.
Garcia mixed some baby formula under a flashlight, while Rodriguez wrapped the infant in a blanket that he got from his church while feeding the baby. “It was a bunch of cops in uniform trying to make a bottle on the side of the road. We had a cold water bottle and we’re trying to use our heater to warm up the water for him,” said Rodriguez.
“I’ve always babysat since I was a kid, but I’ve never done it with a gun on my belt in the passenger seat of a patrol car with a rifle next to me,” Rodriguez continued.
Three other deputies arrived to help; one helped change the infant’s dirty diaper, and the others went and bought the kids McDonald’s to eat.
“It was really hard to be professional when we had such strong opinions about the morality of the situation. We really tried to keep it together for the welfare of the kids. We tried to be happy with them and give them a secure feeling,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez isn’t a father yet, but after seeing the pictures of him feeding the baby, his wife said, “Honey, it’s time to start a family.”
The drunk father, Salas, was arrested. Later that night, the kids were released to the Children Youth and Families Department.