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Alabama Police Help Autistic Man Get Back to Indiana

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Willinaus Bolin, a 23-year-old man from Indianapolis, was having a bad trip, or so he told several police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Several officers would embark on a strange odyssey that brought Bolin throughout the state of Alabama, to Nashville, and eventually back home. A kind truck driver was also involved in this journey.

According to a Facebook post linked in a FOX News story, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) said Bolin’s adventure went something like this: Bolin was apparently headed to Florida when the “friends” he was riding with shoved him out of the car. Then they “robbed him at a gas station in Montgomery… leaving him with nothing but the clothes on his body… no phone, no money.” Bolin had reportedly earned money mowing people’s lawns.

Officers from the Montgomery Police Department were the first law enforcement agency to contact Bolin. They attempted to help him reach his family in Indianapolis with no luck. Bolin told the officers his father had been killed in 9/11, and his mother has only one leg and is diabetic. He said he has no other family.

Then Bolin became the lucky baton in a relay race run by several Alabama cops to help get this young robbery victim home. Montgomery cops brought him to a waffle house in Vestavia Hills, where they presumably fed Bolin breakfast. Vestavia Hills PD officers joined in and tried to get Bolin on a bus or flight home, but nothing timely was available.

Next, VHPD handed him off to the Fultondale Police Department, who transported him to a Cullman County Sheriff’s deputy at a Love’s truck stop, where the deputy bought Bolin “something to eat and drink.” A kindly sergeant gave the young man $20 and wished him well on the rest of his trip. The deputy then handed him off to the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office, where Lt. Flannagan then drove Bolin on the next leg of his journey.

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The last officer in this thin blue relay was in Nashville, Tennesee. He connected Bolin with a trucker headed north who finally crossed the finish line, delivering him to his mother and sister in Indiana. The trucker, Joe Tilman Sr., said Bolin was “quite a storyteller.” That was apparently true.

Having said he had no family other than his mother, the fact his sister was with his mother dispelled that fib. Also, Bolin’s mother has two good legs, and his father is still alive.

As the MCSO learned of Bolin’s “inaccuracies,” perhaps related to his autism diagnosis, the agency’s public information officer, Mike Swafford, said, “We are glad he is home and hope some good will come from the kindness he has been shown.”

Swafford also said, “[Bolin’s first] … name was actually Sangre… The name he used belonged to his brother.”

“However,” he added, “Our agency, and others acted in good faith based on the information we were given, and we were happy to do it and would do it again. Unfortunately, we get lied to a lot.”

This kind of story is not unusual for cops. Despite the anti-police rhetoric in the media and coming from certain politicians and activists, cops get into the profession to help people. It’s an instinct, and more people should appreciate most cops are just like those Alabama officers who helped that young autistic man turn a negative experience into a positive one he’ll likely remember fondly for years to come.


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Steve Pomper is an author, freelance writer, and retired Seattle police officer. During his career, he served as a field training officer, on the Community Police Team, and as a mountain bike patrol coordinator. He’s written five books, including The Obama Gang and De-Policing America, and he is a contributor to the National Police Association and a freelance writer for The Tatum Report.

Originally from New England, he’s a Boston sports fan. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. He enjoys spending time with his adult kids and three grandchildren.