SOUTH PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — A hug saved a 12-year-old girl who had fled from a Los Angeles group home with the intention of jumping to her death.
Officer Chris Perez was on patrol in the area of York Bridge and San Pascual Avenue at about 6:50 p.m. Tuesday when he was flagged down by bystanders who said a girl was sitting on the other side of the bridge’s guardrail, threatening to jump.
The child – whom police described as sobbing and desperate – was hanging by one hand from the bridge, which was about 80 feet over asphalt.
Perez walked to the area where the 12-year-old girl was dangling and spoke to her, learning she was from a group home in Los Angeles that she fled for severe emotional reasons, South Pasadena police officials said. The rookie officer, who had only been with the department for a year, asked if he could come closer to speak to her more personally, and she said he could.
The officer quickly developed a rapport with the girl and was able to calm her down, according to police. The girl agreed to allow Perez to come closer, and he asked if he could help her back over the bridge railing.
“She was just crying and holding on,” he said.
The girl told Perez she was scared and needed help, so the officer leaned over the railing, grabbed her in a bear hug and helped her over the railing to safety, police said.
Perez sat with the child on the sidewalk and gave her water, police said. When she complained of an ankle injury, Perez called the fire department for assistance.
The girl, who had been living in a group home at an address off of Avenue 64 in Los Angeles, was taken into custody for medical evaluation, according to police.
She “is safe tonight because of Officer Perez’s calm, professional actions,” police officials said.
CBS2’s Kristine Lazar said this was an example of being in the right place at the right time.
Her interview with Officer Perez is a story that is Only On 2.
He told her he was only an hour into his shift when he was told about the young girl on the bridge.
She told him she wanted to be reunited with her only family — an aunt.
“I do have nephews, and nieces,” Perez said, “one who is 7, the other who just turned 2. So I can’t relate, that, oh my Lord, this young indivual, this juvenile, is on the other side [on the bridge] what could possibly be going wrong in your life to make you want to do something like this?”
Perez is reluctant to call himself a hero and uncomfortable that others are calling him one — but he is glad his parents (and dad is also an officer) took notice.
“Hearing it from my parents is one thing,” Perez says, humbly, “Because I know I did right by them.”