All too often, stories of child abuse are heard on the news and spread to every social media post and site. Too soon, however, they are eventually forgotten.
Forgetting, it seems, wasn’t an option when Officer Jody Thompson was in the parking lot at Oklahoma’s Poteau Police Department and overheard a dispatch call about a child that had been abused. Though not on duty at the time, Thompson responded anyway and offered assistance to those that were.
Thompson’s willingness to help had as much to do with his heart as his familiarity with such cases, as he had previously worked as an investigator for the district attorney’s office before joining the police department 16 years ago. He admitted to handling dozens of cases of abuse.
“I’ve investigated child abuse cases before,” Thompson admitted. “I thought I’d better go ahead and respond.”
However, when Thompson arrived at the harrowing scene, that familiarity was nothing compared to what he saw: a severely underweight boy with his wrists bound by belts. To make matters worse, the 8-year-old had numerous bruises on his body and was submerged in a trashcan full of ice-cold water.
“He did not have a spot on his body that didn’t have a bruise or abrasion,” Thompson recalled about the 61-pound child, whose name was John. “It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
After covering John with a blanket, Thompson escorted him to a Children’s Advocacy Center so that investigators and detectives on the case could take photographs of his injuries. Once they were finished, the pair headed to the emergency room right away.
“I sat with him,” Thompson said. “And when he was admitted into the intensive care unit, I sat all night until the next day.”
In fact, Thompson refused to let the child out of his sight as something told him this would be different from the many cases he’d dealt with before.
“When I’d seen him in that house shivering and his hands tied — just soaking wet and confused — I knew at that moment the only time I would be satisfied and sure that he was safe is if he was with me,” Thompson admitted. That feeling would eventually lead to John’s adoption by Officer Thompson.
The very next day Thompson had contacted Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services in order to become a legally certified foster parent so he could eventually bring John home. However, he admits it was a bit of a surprise to his family.
“At the time, I had a 15-year-old son and an 8-year-old son. When I brought John home I didn’t tell them or my wife,” Thompson said. “Everyone knew … they trusted I was doing the right thing before they even knew what happened and heard the story.”
Two days later, Thompson found out his wife was pregnant, and nearly 7 months later, DHS called to say that John’s biological mother had given birth to a baby girl while in jail. The Thompsons immediately knew what they had to do.
“We literally picked her up in the hospital the next day when she was a day old and brought her straight home,” Thompson recalled. “Never in my life did I dream of having a large family, but God had different plans and so here we are. And I’m loving it all.”
Though both of John’s biological parents are in prison, the family had to sue in order to receive full parental rights over the newborn girl. Over time, however, it was Thompson’s dedication that had him recognized not only by his loving family but his department as well.
“Jody’s actions, as well as his family’s, are second to none,” police chief Stephen Fruen said in a statement. “The example of love and compassion he has shown to this young man and his sister is an example everyone should follow.”
And Thompson hopes his story will help others make the right decision about adoption as well and what it means to other victims of abuse.
“He excels,” Thompson said about John. “He’s the hero in this. You don’t have to let that define you. We’re not going to use that as an excuse or a crutch.”
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