Facebook Hero Finds Child Who Has Been Missing Since December 23, 2018. Arranges His Safe Return to Mom
Far Rockaway, Queens: Samuel Butler, a 14 year-old Far Rockaway teen who has been missing for more than a week was found today at the Atlantic Mall, Brooklyn by off duty Corrections Officer, Rena Watts. Officer Watts had just finished her shift and decided to do some shopping. She noticed a teen looking into the window of Game Stop and recognized him from a Facebook post that had been shared from community advocate Tony Herbert’s page. Watts walked over to the teen and engaged him in conversation. He told her he was hungry and thirsty so Watts bought him something to eat.
Said Watts, “I recognized him from Facebook and asked him if his name was Samuel. He told me that it was and I told him that I was glad he was safe and that he should call home because people were looking for him. I did my best to establish trust. I bought him something to eat and drink and we spoke for a while. I noticed an MTA police officer nearby so I asked Samuel to watch my bags, hoping that he would agree to help me since I was helping him. He agreed and I slipped away to try to find the phone number on the press release posted on Facebook. There is not cell service in the mall so I had to step outside, but before I did I informed the MTA police officer that the missing boy was watching my bags.
“I was able to reach Tony Herbert who in turn contacted Detectives at the 78th Precinct. When I returned, Samuel was speaking with MTA Sergeant Victor Cabrarian who was able to contact Samuel’s mother and arrange to get him home.”
Said Tony Herbert, “I am overjoyed that Samuel is back home with his mother and I am beyond grateful to Officer Watts and Sergeant Cabrarian. These two law enforcement officers have proven that they are never truly off duty. Officer Watts went above and beyond to ensure that Samuel was returned to his mother. She established trust, thought quickly and acted cautiously. All after completing an overnight shift at the Manhattan House of Detention. She continued to work with us well into the morning until Samuel was returned safely to him mom. We all owe her a debt of gratitude.
“I also want to give a shout out to the Facebook community. 188 people shared the post over a 19 hour period which is how Officer Watts was able to see it. That underscores my point that Amber Alerts should be sent out immediately after a child is reported missing to the police. People power is a tremendous resource.”
Herbert is calling Officer Watts a true New York hero and has already begun reaching out to Correction officials to ask that they recognize her actions.
Said Officer Watts, “I am just thankful that Samuel is back home. He is an intelligent and respectful young man.”
Samuel’s mother, Sabrena Butler reported the teen missing at approximately 5pm on December 23, 2018 after he failed to return home from cashing in cans at Shop Fair Supermarket. No Amber Alert went out.
Herbert wants lawmakers to mandate that Amber Alerts be sent out minutes after a child under 16 is reported missing. “Nearly 1,000 children have been recovered thanks to the Amber Alert program so it only makes sense to use the program whenever a child is reported missing. By removing the subjectivity from the process and issuing alerts for every child under 16 who is reported missing, we increase the chances of the child being found and returned unharmed.”
The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between broadcasters, transportation agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. NCMEC serves as the secondary distributor of these alerts and, to date, 941 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 55 recoveries credited to the wireless emergency alert program.
Ms. Butler said she was eternally grateful for Samuel’s safe return.