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Policeman Comforts Missing Autistic Man With a Hug

Posted by Brian Spence on Jun 10, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Autism, Behavioral HealthLance Grumley was missing and his mother was frantic. Any mother would be. The only thing unusual about this situation is that Lance is 31 years old. Lance has autism and other developmental issues and does not communicate well. It is dangerous for him to be alone.

Grumley wandered away from home when he saw his mother's car wasn't in the garage as usual. She had left it at a relative's home the day before. He was out of sight before his mother, Diane, realized he wasn't in the garage. She knew right away that he was confused by the empty garage bay. She says, "He may have thought, 'Mom left without me.' That's never happened."

Looking for Lance

Mrs. Grumley called the police right away, then retrieved her car and began to search as well. The cops went into action immediately. "When a call comes in like that, it turns into all hands on deck," Police Chief Tim Mattos said, "We wanted to make sure he was found."

Rohnert Park is about an hour north of San Francisco, and calls itself "The Friendly City." It's a planned city of less than fifty thousand, with lots of parks, green spaces, golf courses and recreational opportunities. But even in a relatively safe town, a missing child or vulnerable adult is at risk. For them, being unsupervised is terrifying when you don't understand how to take care of yourself.

Happy to be Found

Police Officer Justin Thompson knew who Lance was and had an idea where he might concentrate his search. Turning his motorcycle toward a local park with a creek, he found Lance Grumley on a rustic bridge and parked his bike. Grumley panicked and started to flee, but Officer Thompson took off his helmet and gloves and convinced Lance that he was there to help. In a flood of relief Lance allowed Thompson to embrace him. The photo was captured and the image has gone viral, displaying the sensitivity of the officer and the gratitude of the young man.

Diane Grumley and Lance were reunited and the moment of compassion portrayed by the hug is a heartwarming and welcome illustration that law enforcement is also about good guys helping good guys.

If you are interested in working with individuals with developmental disabilities, we may have the opportunities for you.

To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our blog.

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