VIRAL PHOTO: Officer calms autistic teen

VIRAL PHOTO: Officer calms autistic teen
Posted at 3:13 PM, May 18, 2016

A North Carolina police officer is receiving praise after a photo of him calming a potentially suicidal autistic teenager has gone viral.

According to a Facebook post from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department, police were alerted to a situation involving an autistic teenager who left his high school. The teen had a history of violent behavior and was possibly suicidal.

Considering the teen’s past, Purdy could have been walking into a potentially dangerous situation.

“As I got out of the car, I was just thinking to myself ‘what are you going to do, what are you going to do? How are you going to handle it?” Purdy said. “The individual sat down, and I just decided, ‘Hey, let’s try to talk.’”

The tactic worked, and Purdy and the teenager immediately connected. According to the Facebook post, he even got the teenager laughing.

Since the police department posted the photo on its Facebook page last Friday, it's been shared more than a quarter of a million times.

“It’s just a great opportunity to showcase autism, because there are so many people out there that struggle with it. Not only do they struggle with it, but their family members struggle with it,” Purdy said. “So, I think it’s important that they understand there are good officers out there that when there is a situation involving their son or daughter, that we can handle it appropriately.”

“This is something that tens of thousands of police officers do every day, you just don’t hear about it.”

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.