Rohnert Park Police Officer Justin Thompson gives resident Lance Grumley a hug after the man went missing.
ROHNERT PARK, Calif. - Lance Grumley is 31 year old guy who enjoys swimming, playing baseball and watching television. He also loves animals, puzzles and Disney movies. But one thing the developmentally disabled Rohnert Park man doesn’t like is being away from his mom.
That happened Wednesday morning when Lance wandered away from their apartment complex by himself. Lance can write his name and read common sight words, but because of his intellectual disability. he needs to always be with a family member or a caregiver for his own safety.
His mother, Diane Grumley, said she and Lance were preparing to head out of the house Wednesday morning when her son went to the garage.
“He went down to open the garage like he always does, and I didn’t really know he went out the door,’’ she said.
A few minutes later, Grumley headed to the garage, but neither her car nor her son were there. It was then that she remembered that she had parked her car in her other son’s nearby apartment garage the night before.
But her son was nowhere to be found.
“He couldn’t find me and I think he was kinda sad,’’she said. “He may have thought ‘mom left without me.’ That’s never happened.”
She began driving around looking for Lance and asking everyone she saw if they had seen him.
Someone told her that he was spotted dancing and skipping down the nearby bike path.
“By this time I was a little worried,’’ she said.
It was then that she called Rohnert Park police.
“When a call comes in like that, it turns into all hands on deck,’’ said Rohnert Park Police Chief Tim Mattos. ”That was a serious call. We wanted to make sure he was found.”
Officers in patrol cars, on foot and on motorcycles began seraching the Sonoma County city of 40,000.
“It just so happened that (Motorcycle Officer Justin Thompson) was able to get down those creek paths,’’ the chief said. “He was meant to find him.”
Thompson quickly took off his gloves and helmet and approached the young man.
“I’m sure Justin knew that (the helmet) might be intimidating,’’ the chief said.
Thompson spoke to the young man, who family members said, was a bit frightened.
Then the officer gave him a big hug. A fellow officer snapped a photo of the touching moment.
“Justin was the perfect person to find him,’’ the chief said. “He has a great heart.”
Thompson, who located Lance within about 10 minutes of his disappearance, wasn’t available to talk to KTVU Thursday, but Lance and his family plan to visit him on Monday and thank him for his service.
“We try to teach him that the police officers are the good guys,’’ his older sister Sara Grumley said Thursday. “We are very grateful to the police for responding so quickly and for handling the situation so compassionately.”