On the morning of October 27, 2017, Milwaukee police officers Vin Paolo and Dan Resnick arrived at an empty house not far from 29th and Locust. They had been asked to help child welfare workers, and the scene they arrived at looked bleak. Lacking heat, plumbing or electricity, the home in front of the officers was also shuttered up from the outside. Moreover, Paolo and Resnick’s skills were put to the test when a pregnant woman greeted them at the front door.
When on the job, police officers across the country face various challenges, whether they be more domestic issues or threats to public safety. Yet the duo of Paolo and Resnick faced a markedly personal challenge at the back end of October 2017. And it all started with a concerned phone call.
A resident near 29th and Locust had called child welfare services to report that a young pregnant woman and her family were living in an abandoned house on their street. Hence, child welfare in turn called Paolo and Resnick to the location for assistance in the matter.
As the police officers subsequently approached the two-story building, the pregnant woman met them. Furthermore, the young lady revealed that she’d been living in the vacant house since losing her job, as she had nowhere else to stay. She wasn’t alone, either.
Paolo and Resnick then entered the house, quickly observing just how bad the conditions were for the young woman and her family. “The house was very, very cold,” Paolo told WISN 12 NEWS. “Broken upstairs windows, draft through the house, clothes and garbage and beds amongst the house.”
Yet Resnick made the most significant discovery when properly searching the premises. The police officer spotted a mattress in one of the bedrooms, noting what he thought was just a pile of winter sheets scattered across it. When he moved the sheets, though, he found a sleeping two-year-old boy wrapped in three winter jackets.
Because the inside of the house clearly wasn’t a suitable place for anyone, then, Paolo subsequently carried the boy back to his police cruiser to warm up; meanwhile, Resnick stayed in the house with his mother. Along with moving the youngster, Paolo also grabbed a bag of chips – the only food to be found in the home.
And although the youngster had trouble getting to the chips, Paolo was more than willing to lend a helping hand. “Because of his jacket, his three coats, he couldn’t get his hand inside the bag of chips,” the officer recalled to FOX6 News. “[The clothing] was so thick, and I actually had to feed him chips.”
Presuming that the toddler was still hungry after the bag of chips, Paolo then asked another officer to buy some chicken nuggets from a local McDonald’s. “Oh, he was really hungry,” Paolo added to WISN 12 NEWS. “He scarfed it down.”
Then after returning to the squad car, Resnick sat with his partner as the boy was eating his box of nuggets. And with the toddler perched on Paolo’s knee in the driver’s seat, Resnick took the opportunity to take a photo of the pair. However, no one in the car could have known that the picture would eventually go viral.
Resnick then jokingly sent the picture to Paolo’s wife, as the pair have to date adopted five foster children. “Coworkers often joke with me as if I’m going to take home every child that I see, and I really wish that I could,” Paolo told WISN 12 News. “It hurts my heart when I see children like this.”
Furthermore, it seems that plenty of people share Paolo’s view. The photo was subsequently posted on Facebook, ultimately being shared more than 2,000 times and garnering over 4,000 “likes.” And among the positive comments on the image, Paolo’s wife, Mel Williams, added her own tribute to her husband.
“I just have to make a disclaimer… My husband had NO IDEA ANYONE TOOK A PICTURE OF HIM,” Williams wrote on Facebook. “He did it because he’s a loving, kind, compassionate, great person with a huge heart. He did it because he’s a dad – and wants every child to feel loved, safe, and have a full belly. He wants ZERO recognition for this. He’d do this for anyone, uniform or not.”
Meanwhile, Paolo outlined the approach that he’d taken with the toddler during their encounter. In particular, the officer made it clear that he wanted to keep the youngster’s mind off what was happening outside the squad car.
“I know these kids go through a lot of difficult times,” he added. “I try to make every encounter with the police a good encounter.” They’re certainly sentiments that most people would find hard to reject.
Meanwhile, despite the subsequent praise that they received both online and in person, Paolo and Resnick have played down their respective roles in this incident. And the former was in fact particularly steadfast in cooling the reaction.
“We don’t want recognition,” Paolo concluded. “It’s just what we do because we’re dads, we’re people. We don’t just do it because we’re police officers and it’s our job.”
However, regardless of Resnick’s cheeky photo, Paolo and his wife haven’t taken the toddler in, as some might expect. At the time of writing, the two-year-old boy is in foster care while his pregnant mother works with social services to find a new house.
A few weeks ago, then, officers Paolo and Resnick were just two Milwaukee cops going about their daily routine. Yet their actions at the abandoned house and beyond are testament to the size of their hearts. They may be police officers to most people, but to the young boy whom they helped they are surely heroes.