Caught on camera: Officers rescue non-verbal 4-year-old boy with autism from pond

Thursday, July 13, 2023
Officers rescue non-verbal 4-year-old boy with autism from pond: VIDEO
Hillsborough County, Florida officers rescued a non-verbal boy with autism from a pond, body camera footage shows.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- A non-verbal 4-year-old boy with autism is back home with his family after he was rescued from a Florida pond by two deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, WFTS reported.

The heroic rescue was captured on the deputies' body-worn cameras.

According to the sheriff's office, it happened Tuesday morning at a small pond along Thonotosassa Road about a mile east of Lake Thonotosassa.

Deputies say a driver called 911 after seeing the child, who was wearing nothing but pull-ups, walk from the road toward the pond.

"The call came in at 10:25 a.m. and our team was there by 10:35 - able to assess the situation," said Assistant Chief Communications Officer Phil Martello.

The deputies, Deputy Arron Gibson and Master Deputy Clarissa Brady, decided they had no choice but to wade into the deep and muddy pond, which a neighbor says is infested with snakes.

"I'm going to get soaked," Gibson says in the body cam recording. "I'm going to go get him."

The two deputies worked together. While Gibson waded through the chest-deep water, Brady called out directions to the child.

They found him clinging onto reeds to keep from sinking.

"We have the kid," Brady tells dispatch in the video. "We're trying to get him out now."

Just minutes later, he was safe, uninjured, and reunited with his family thanks to the efforts of the deputy duo, thanks to the person who called 911, and thanks to the reeds that held the child above water.

"Just really proud of the work of our deputies. It shares and showcases the training that they go through to keep our community and, you know, our most vulnerable members safe," said Martello. "This could have been a very different story had more time elapsed or the child just been in a different area of the pond."

Meanwhile, Sheriff Chad Chronister said his office will work with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to determine if negligence was involved.

ABC Action News spoke with the child's mom, a mother of four, who said her house is child-proofed, but DCF helped her improve her locks and put alarms on her doors Wednesday.

She said she loves her son and is a good mom.