NEWARK, NJ - Two Newark police officers are being lauded for saving the life of a suicidal 13-year-old boy on Monday who nearly jumped off the fire escape at a youth group home.
Officer Shaquille Johnson and Sergeant Antonio Barbosa said when they arrived at the scene, a third officer was talking to the boy down below. When the boy saw Johnson and Barbosa had entered the facility, he ran to the other side of the fire escape and climbed to the other side of a chain-link fence as if he was about to jump off the third floor.
“We didn’t have much time to think,” Johnson said at the police department’s 5th precinct on Wednesday. “We just immediately leaped in there and opened the door and grabbed him before he could actually jump.”
The officers had been called to Youth Consultation Services, which provides a variety of services including housing for individuals from ages 5 to 21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In a video made public by the department, Johnson can be seen pulling the boy back onto the balcony. Barbosa and Johnson then try to calm the boy down, offering him food and telling him he could talk to them.
For Johnson the incident hit close to home.
“As a citizen and still current resident of Newark, I saw myself basically as a young child that needed help and that’s what we’re here for,” Johnson said. “It’s more than just a uniform.”
Both Johnson, who has been with the department for two years, and Barbosa, a 21-year veteran, said it was the first time they had ever dealt with a situation involving a suicidal child.
Captain Brian O’Hara said all Newark police officers go through de-escalation training for a variety of situations but that encountering children in those incidents was rare.
“Unfortunately we deal with folks who are in crisis virtually every day,” O’Hara said. “In terms of juveniles, it’s not nearly as frequent but it has happened.”
Barbosa said after the two officers spoke with the boy, he talked with an EMT where he explained that he had been upset about something that had occurred in his life and that no one was paying attention to him where he was staying.
After speaking with an EMT, Barbosa said the boy voluntarily went to University Hospital for an evaluation.
“We told him that he needed to get help, and he complied, and he started crying,” Barbosa said. “He didn’t put up a fight or anything like that, and he went along on his own free will.”
Officers did not provide an update on the status of the boy.