The roll call was no different from any other I’d experienced in my five years as an officer with the Houston Police Department. Our sergeant, a 20-year police veteran with the scars on his hands to prove it, methodically droned out the roll call, giving us our beats and assignments for the evening.
“Hauck and Dove: 1B23.” My partner Frank’s last name was supposed to be pronounced “How-k,” but the sergeant always pronounced it “Hawk.” That was probably why he had put us together 11 months before—so he could smile every time he thought of a hawk and a dove being in the same car.
After the usual exchange of information, roll call ended. We moved slowly, putting our gear in the patrol car, checking the equipment, and starting up the engine. No one was ever anxious to go out on the street too quickly.
The evening shift began with the usual backlog of calls from day shift. It looked like just another routine day—handling a family disturbance, writing up a few traffic tickets, putting a youth in jail for attacking his teacher, and arresting some teens for drag racing.
“Just two more hours and we can go home,” Frank said, looking at his watch. “Man, will I be glad!”
I didn’t say much in response; my thoughts were more focused on other things. I wondered why I had chosen to be a police officer. The Church emphasizes the value of a positive environment and of uplifting thoughts and actions. Out here on the street, everything seemed so negative. The ravages of Satan’s influence were visible at every call, whether the tools of destruction were alcohol, drugs, pride, sexual immorality, greed, or just plain brutality.
Tonight was one of those times when I wondered if the Lord even knew I was here, trying to remain untainted while wading through so much human misery. I wondered if all my efforts against such odds were really worth it. What use could Father in Heaven possibly have of me?
The scratchy voice of the dispatcher crackled over the radio, interrupting my thoughts: “1B23, stolen auto, Northwest Mall in front of Foleys.”
Frank quickly answered, “1B23 received and en route.”
As I turned the patrol car around and headed toward Northwest Mall, the dispatcher came back. “1B23, I now have your call as a kidnapping of a child, code one.”
“1B23 received code one en route at 1923 hours.” Frank shoved the mike into the holder and flipped on the red lights and siren. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic as we sped toward our call. We could see the huge outline of the mall in the distance when a fellow officer’s voice squawked on the radio, “1B36, I’ve arrived at the kidnapping call; you can disregard, 1B23.”
“Clear, 1B36, I have you arrived,” said the dispatcher.
“1B23 received.” Frank put the mike back onto the dash. We shut off the red lights and siren and slowed down to normal speed. Frank talked on for a few minutes until 1B36 came back on the air, talking to the dispatcher.
“This is 1B36, are you clear for a GB [general broadcast]?”
“Go ahead, 1B36,” the dispatcher quickly answered.
“About 10 minutes ago the suspect left north on Hempstead in the stolen car—a blue Ford LTD, Texas license NJN 479.”
Frank and I looked at each other with the same thought: We must have passed the suspect. Before we could react, the dispatcher returned to the air: “Attention all units, I have additional information on the kidnapping from Northwest Mall. The suspect just called police and said he abandoned the car with an infant in it in the 12000 block of Hempstead.”
I grabbed the mike this time: “1B23, we’re on top of that location; we’ll check it out.”
Frank said, “I bet he didn’t even notice the kid at first. He must’ve had a heart attack sitting there staring at 20 years in the cage.” Frank and I commented on what must have been a startling discovery for a thief who thought he was stealing just a car.
We arrived at the location to find an intersection with two gas stations and no stolen car. We advised the dispatcher of our arrival and said we could not find the suspect vehicle. We began searching the surrounding area on foot, going up and down the narrow side streets and alleys. Other police units joined in our search, but to no avail.
After about half an hour, we still had found nothing. 1B36 had shown up with the hysterical mother, who ran between houses calling her baby’s name. It was now obvious that the thief either was playing a cruel hoax or had gotten the location wrong.
As we returned to our patrol car, I looked over my shoulder. In the quiet darkness I saw the mother kneeling on the wet ground, pouring her heart out to Heavenly Father, begging for His help in finding her lost child.
Frank noticed her too and said, “I wonder what makes her think God cares what’s happening here.”
I didn’t respond, but a dark thought streaked through my mind: Why would He care about what’s happening right here at this very minute?
I shivered and tried to shake the thought from my head. I muttered, “He must care; He has to care.”
“What did you say?” Frank asked.
“Nothing, just talking to myself,” I replied. Blushing, I turned to get back into the patrol car. While on duty, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to bring up personal things such as religious beliefs unless I was asked to.
Riding along, we didn’t say anything for the first few minutes. My mind raced with the silent thought: Thank goodness it wasn’t my son. We drove for about 10 minutes without saying a word; even the radio was quiet.
Then suddenly the words Turn here! burst into my mind. I quickly obeyed and turned onto the only street I could.
“What’s up?” asked Frank.
I stared down the street, pointed, and said with confidence, “The child is down this street!”
Frank didn’t question me. “Let’s take a look.”
We started slowly looking with spotlights in every driveway and between every house. Then came the calm but urgent impression that I must hurry.
I stepped on the gas pedal, causing the car to lurch forward. “What are you doing?” Frank exclaimed. “Did you see something?”
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. As the police car picked up speed, I knew we were getting closer to the child. Then another distinct impression came that the child was nearby. I immediately turned onto a driveway leading between two warehouses and we began to spin slightly. As I regained control of the police car, I turned into a parking lot enclosed on all sides by warehouses.
We both saw the car at the same time.
“There it is!” we shouted. Before our car had even stopped moving, I shifted it into park and leaped out, Frank right behind me.
The baby lay motionless in a car seat in the back. He was a sickly blue color. The car had been left running, and the exhaust fumes hung heavily around the car. We both knew he was being suffocated by the fumes.
The thief had locked all the doors, so Frank ran back to the patrol car and told the dispatcher what we had discovered. The dispatcher answered that an ambulance and wrecker were en route. But there was no time to wait.
I wedged my fingers between the top of one of the glass windows and the door frame and, saying a prayer, yanked on the glass as hard as I could. The glass shattered. Quickly unlocking and opening the door, I snatched the baby from the backseat. I was already beginning to feel dizzy from the fumes as I held the child up toward the light. I could see he was barely breathing. Then, with a gasp, the baby sucked in fresh air, and his color began to change to a rosy pink.
Frank and I stood there looking at the crying infant for a moment—just glad he was alive.
The sound of the approaching ambulance siren was reassuring. Soon a team of emergency medical technicians was examining the baby. Another police car came screeching up with the mother in the backseat. She raced from the car to the ambulance and wept with joy upon seeing her baby alive.
I looked back at the stolen vehicle that had almost become a tomb and was surprised when my flashlight reflected off a bumper sticker that read, “Happiness is family home evening.”
I imagined the boy taking his first steps, riding his first bicycle, attending seminary, graduating from high school, serving a mission—and I imagined the mother whispering a prayer for two policemen who, on a cold, rainy night in November, snatched her boy from certain death.
Frank looked at me and asked, “How did you know the baby was here? I couldn’t even tell there was a parking lot behind this building.” I didn’t answer Frank then, but his persistent questions would later lead to discussions on many spiritual things.
As we headed back to the station to end the night, my thoughts turned to the words that had so clearly guided me to the lost infant. I then began to truly feel that Heavenly Father cares deeply about what happens to each of us. And I realized that Heavenly Father is aware of me and my efforts in my work. It was a lesson I will never forget.