One evening last month something exciting happened at a family restaurant called Mrs. Potato in Orlando, Florida. At the end of the night, five strangers instinctively made decisive decisions. The result, according to police, was that the life of an 11-year-old boy was likely saved.
There is a lesson in what happened and it starts with what a woman named Flaviane Carvalho saw.
She served meals at a table that was seated by a family of four. Three of the people – a grown man, an adult woman, and a four year old girl – sat on one side and appeared to be enjoying themselves. The boy was on the other side, was not spoken to and did not speak. He was the only one the adults hadn’t ordered food for. Mrs. Carvalho thought that was strange.
Then she noticed bruises near the boy’s eye and a cut across his nose. And more bruises on his forearm. She couldn’t have done anything.
But she couldn’t just let it go. On a sheet of paper she wrote in large letters: “Are you okay?” She stood behind the table and held up the paper so that only the boy on the other side could see it. He made a movement with his head. She felt that he was scared. So she wrote another message: “DO YOU NEED HELP?”
The child nodded yes.
Ms. Carvalho was the first person that evening to do the right thing. She went to a phone and called the owner of the restaurant, Rafaela Cabede. She said what happened. Should she call the police?
Mrs. Cabede did not hesitate. If Ms. Carvalho’s guess was found to be wrong, it could have caused trouble for her restaurant. Still, she said she should call 911 right away.
Now two people had done the right thing. Ms. Carvalho called 911, told the dispatcher what she had seen and, according to the tape, said, “I don’t know what to do. Can you give me an advice?”
The 911 dispatcher Fahad Mumtaz gave more than just advice. He said the police were on their way.
Three people had done the right thing.
Orlando Police Officer Brett Brubaker arrived. After speaking to Mrs. Carvalho, he approached the table. He told the man at the table – Timothy Lee Wilson, the boy’s stepfather – that he wanted to speak to the boy privately. Officer Brubaker was the fourth person to do the right thing.
The officer and the boy went outside. First, the boy, who was significantly underweight, said his bruises were due to an accident. But another officer with experience in cases of battered and traumatized children – Sgt. Sonja Saunders – soon came and listened patiently to the boy and became the fifth person to do the right thing that night.
From the official report by Officer Brubaker:
“I immediately noticed bruises on the right side of his face and a healing wound on the bridge of his nose. . . Upon further observation, several bruises were seen on his right arm, from his shoulder to his wrist. . . [The boy] Timothy Wilson recently hit him with a wooden broom, back scraper, and his closed fists. [The boy] declared that he hit him with it when he did something wrong. . . [He] also said Timothy Wilson would punch him in the chest with his fists closed.
“It should be noted that [the boy] was in pain just by simply rolling up his jacket sleeves to show his injury. . . [He] complained of chest pain and was stooped in place. . . It should be noted [Timothy Wilson] weighs about 325 pounds “and the boy weighs” about 60 pounds “.
An ambulance was called and the boy was taken to a hospital, where severe bruising was found under his clothes and on his ears. Timothy Wilson was arrested immediately. Follow-up examinations of the boy by detectives, according to police and court documents, led them to claim that the stepfather attached the straps to the child’s ankles and neck and hung him upside down on a door. that the boy had been beaten with various objects, tied to a moving cart, ordered to do 30-minute military-style exercises, and if he failed, was further beaten and not allowed to eat.
Florida Prosecutors 9th Trial Accused Stepfather of 10 Crimes, Including Serious Abuse, False Detention and Neglect; His wife, Kristen Swann, has been charged with five crimes of abuse and neglect. Neither of them pleaded guilty. The boy and girl, police said, are now safely removed from their alleged guardians.
According to Detective Erin Lawler, if any of the five people had decided that evening not to interfere, “this little boy probably wouldn’t be with us long.” She called what was done to the child “torture” which “shocks your soul”. Police chief Orlando Rolón said if it hadn’t been for the quick action that night, “We would probably have been talking about a possible murder investigation.”
But all five knew immediately what to do. Because they did, Timothy Wilson and Kristen Swann are waiting for the trial. And this boy is alive.
Mr Greene’s books include, “And You Know You Should Be Glad: A True Story of Lifelong Friendship.”
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