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Indiana man saved by South Bend officer as a toddler makes it his ‘mission’ to thank her 24 years later

A South Bend, Ind. police officer received a heartwarming thank you 24 years after saving the life of a toddler walking alone in traffic.

The reunion was shared on the South Bend Police Department’s Facebook page on Nov. 16 when 27-year-old Roberto Theiss showed up at the department looking for Officer Anne Hayes.

On July 16, 1998, a 911 caller reported a child walking in and out of traffic on the northeast side of South Bend. Officer Hayes arrived quickly at the scene, placed the boy in her patrol vehicle and waited for other officers to respond to the call.

Theiss said he can’t remember much, but he does recall being brought to the station and accidentally spilling a drink in the break room. While an officer went to buy him a new drink, longtime civilian employee Emma Beserra gave him a stuffed animal and started speaking to him in Spanish.

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Over two decades later, the department said Theiss returned to the station last Wednesday with a simple request – to personally thank Officer Hayes for saving his life.

Dressed in a suit and carrying a bouquet of flowers, Theiss waited in the doorway for 2nd Detail to complete roll call. Capt. Joe Leszczynski then nodded to him, and he entered the room full of officers and reporters to meet with Officer Hayes.

Theiss explained that the officer’s actions that night helped him become the man he is today. After leaving the police station in 1998, Theiss entered foster care and was adopted.

When asked why he wanted to meet Officer Hayes more than 24 years after the incident, Theiss said he was preparing to leave for military service, and it was his mission to “thank and share a hug” with officer who saved him before he left.

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“From a police officer’s perspective, a person’s life story may start and end with a call,” the department said in the post. “But in this case, we are thankful that Roberto came back to share his sequel.”

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