Officers from the Sheriff’s Department in Bernalillo, New Mexico, were faced with a heart-wrenching scenario when they pulled over a suspected drunk driver and found his three small children in the back seat.
It was February of 2016 when deputies Sam Rodriguez and Roger Garcia noticed a swerving vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road.
Officers ended up arresting Jeffrey Salas, 24, who was driving while intoxicated with his three kids, ages 5, 2 and just 2 months, sitting in the back.
The youngest two were sitting in soiled, smelly diapers. The baby had been placed in an unbuckled car seat and was hungry and crying.
The deputies had to keep their emotions under control as they maintained their commitment to serve and protect the people of New Mexico.
They made sure the children could not see as their father was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, as they wanted to avoid adding any further trauma to the children’s lives.
Then, the officers had to try to make a bottle of formula on the road in the dark, as they’d realized the infant desperately needed to eat. When Garcia asked the older two children if they were hungry, their response cut deep into his heart.
“What hurt me the most is when we asked about the last time they ate, they couldn’t remember,” Garcia told KOAT.
“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 were trying to use our heater to warm up the water for him,” Rodriguez said.
“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.
The officers called for backup, made sure the younger two had fresh diapers and took the 5-year-old and 2-year-old to McDonald’s for a late-night meal.
Though their hearts were burning with anger against the father’s selfish, dangerous decision to drive around under the influence and neglect his children’s safety and health, they tried to remain upbeat for the sake of the kids.
“It was really hard to be professional when we had such strong opinions about the morality of the situation,” Rodriguez said. “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.”
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department is proud of its compassionate officers who truly want to serve and protect their communities, and the community has taken the opportunity to thank them in their comments on these posts as well.
One remarked on the officers’ charges, writing “Taking care of citizens of all sizes!”
“God bless you,” wrote another commenter. “You used professionalism and compassion and did the hard job that needed to be done. I pray that the children are able to grow up to be physically and mentally healthy and that the father is able to successfully overcome his addiction so he can become the father he needs to be.”
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