Lifestyle & Human Interest

Officer Risks Life 'Without a Second's Hesitation,' Jumping Into Retention Pond to Save Drowning Baby


Children and bodies of water are a famously bad combination. Natural water features can be dangerous to people of all ages, especially when the water hides invisible dangers or a person is unable to stay afloat.

When a baby tumbled into a retention pond in Florida on June 9, Officer Me’Atia Sanderson with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) showed up first and did what first responders do best: Charged ahead to save a life.

The only problem was that just like that infant drowning in the pond, Sanderson didn’t know how to swim, either.

A local at the Madelyn Oaks Apartments in Jacksonville had noticed the baby, whose age wasn’t given, along with a child that appeared to be around 3 years old, playing in the water unsupervised at around 9:45 a.m., according to WJXT-TV.

When Sanderson arrived and ran over, the younger child was no longer visible. After being directed to where the baby had disappeared, she plunged into the water.

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A maintenance man jumped in, too, and after the officer located the lifeless child, she handed the baby off to the man and worked on getting herself out of the water.

“They were able to do like teamwork,” a resident who asked to remain anonymous told WJXT. “She was able to give the baby to the maintenance guy and now she’s trying to help herself get out of there because she got on her safety gear, her duty belt, stuff like that. She did an amazing job like doing what she could do.”

Once the maintenance man put the baby on the ground, Sanderson rushed over and began CPR, talking to the baby while trying to revive it.

While the incident took place back in June, the JSO just released the bodycam video on Tuesday as part of ther “week of thanks.”

“Police Officers across this country report to work each and everyday to protect and serve their communities,” the post reads. “They show up each day knowing they will be faced with unimaginable challenges and dangers; yet they do not know what those challenges or dangers will be or how they will present themselves.

WARNING: The following video contains language that some viewers may find offensive

“Ofc. Me’Atia Sanderson joined JSO in March of 2019. As a patrol officer in Zone 4 (Westside), Ofc. Sanderson was working on June 9th of this year when JSO and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department were dispatched to an infant drowning in a retention pond. Ofc. Sanderson was the first to arrive on scene and was alerted that the infant was still in the water. Ofc. Sanderson, who does not know how to swim herself, without a second’s hesitation, entered the pond to retrieve the child and performed CPR until she was relieved by other responding officers.

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“Captain Christopher Scott with JFRD authored a letter to JSO on behalf of Ofc. Sanderson recognizing the impact her ‘quick and decisive decision to go into the retention pond’ made. Her actions, while putting her own life at risk, undoubtedly saved the child’s life.

“As we continue our #weekofthanks, we at the #JSO are thankful that we have officers like Ofc. Sanderson, who day in and day out, take on the challenges and dangers of this job. Our community would not be what it is without them.”

After the rescue, the older child was found to be unharmed. The child pulled from the water was listed as being in “very critical condition.”

Police later found out that the two had been in the care of a teenage relative when they managed to wander off and get to the pond.

“Be cognizant of retention ponds,” JSO Sergeant Robby Hinson said. “If you have small children, put a lock up high on the door or get one of those plastic locks to prevent kids from opening a door handle.”

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