A Riverside County animal control officer who put her dog-catching duties aside to stop a 5-year-old boy from running into harm’s way in Jurupa Valley was praised Wednesday by her boss for acting quickly to prevent a potential tragedy.
“I am proud that Officer Tiffany Fuller was able to make sure this child wasn’t hurt or abducted,” Department of Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer said. “We’re actually always keeping an eye out for strange situations.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Fuller was in the area of Peralta and Skyview roads when she spotted the child running frantically along a sidewalk, prompting immediate concerns for his welfare, according to agency spokesman John Welsh.
“I knew there was something wrong because he was running alone and looked very upset,” Fuller said. “A little boy that age should not be out by himself.”
She said she tried to make contact with the youngster, but he was “a fast runner” and bolted whenever she drew near.
The animal control officer requested that a sheriff’s deputy be dispatched and spent several minutes trying to catch up to the child.
When the boy got close to the busy intersection of Limonite Avenue and Camino Real, Fuller knew she had to stop him, fearing he might end up in traffic. The officer ultimately bear-hugged the youth and held onto him.
“He kept telling me he wanted his father, and he didn’t want any help,” Fuller said. “A woman who realized I needed some assistance stopped her car and got out to help calm the boy. I think she was a teacher or a principal because she spoke to him in such a comforting manner. She was great.”
A deputy pulled up within a few minutes, as did a woman in a van who turned out to be the boy’s mother, according to Welsh.
An investigation revealed that the would-be runaway apparently left home because he was felt he was getting a fraction of the attention of his newborn sibling. The child’s mother returned home with him.
“I was really worried about him running across the sometimes dangerous Camino Real,” Fuller said. “I was happy to stop him before he made it that far.”