April 22, 2024
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Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

It’s every parent’s dread. Your child has somehow got out of the house or apartment, and you can’t find him. In the case of an autistic child, your worries may be even greater.
Late in May, the Plano Police Department received a call from a mom whose child had disappeared while she was packing to move. Officer TJ Brantley, a member of the force for two years, was among those who answered the call.
The mom told officers that her 4-year-old autistic child was inclined to run away, that he loved water, though he didn’t know how to swim, and that, to some extent, he didn’t like to be touched.
Brantley searched the apartment complex, which has two pools, while other officers headed toward the creek south of the complex. He had started walking on the side of the creek opposite from the other officers, when he heard the child yelling and crying.
He spotted the child up to his chest in the flowing water. A 20-foot embankment was between him and the boy.
“I found a way to get down to him; I crawled down to him,” Brantley said.
As he reached the water’s edge, a snake slid over his shoe into the water.
“I don’t like snakes much,” Brantley admitted. “I’m afraid I used a bad word.”
Brantley’s Crisis Intervention Training kicked in as he approached the child. He called the child’s name rather than running toward him, knowing that the child may have run away into a deeper part of the stream.
“I started talking and made my way over to him,” Brantley said. He noticed that the child had put his hands over his ears, characteristic of sensory overload in some autistic children.
In the stream up to his knees, Brantley moved over to the child carefully blocking the deeper part of the stream, which might have been over the boy’s head.
“He was scared, but he wasn’t fighting me. He was just upset,” Brantley said.
Brantley carried the child back up the embankment. The child weighed about 40-50 lbs., and Brantley’s uniform was waterlogged. At one point he tried to set the boy down, but when the child struggled, Brantley continued to carry him to the top of the embankment and into the waiting arms of his mother.
Brantley notes that inside the apartment, the mother was prepared for such a situation with multiple locks on the door. However, in the confusion of moving, she didn’t lock the door when she went outside.
Brantley and all other officers in the state are required to have Crisis Intervention Training as mandated by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. During the training, they learn to work with people who have autism or other special needs.
Brantley is the son of Curby Brantley Jr. and Kay Lynn Brantley. Curby Brantley works at Cargill in Bovina, and Kay Lynn Brantley, a 30-year teacher, teaches early childhood education at Dillman Elementary.
A 2007 graduate of Muleshoe High School, Brantley went on to college, then served in the United States Air Force, six years on active duty and two in the reserves. He is the father of two sons, ages 3 and 1.
A Facebook post from the Plano Police Department says, “Yes, he was just ‘doing his job.’ A job that is very rewarding but not always easy. Officer Brantley, thank you for your dedicated service to our community and those within.”



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