Photo showing police officer comforting infant whose parents overdosed goes viral

The child's father was dead, the mother unconscious, when police arrived

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Saturday 03 September 2016 15:07 BST
Officer Michelle Burton cared for the baby all evening
Officer Michelle Burton cared for the baby all evening

It was little short of a horror scene when police officers responded to a call that led them to an apartment in central Birmingham, Alabama. A young man was dead, apparently from a a drug overdose and a young woman lay unconscious, seemingly for the same reason.

Then there was the matter of the couple’s anxious children – a seven-year-old girl, two boys aged three and two, and a one-month baby girl dressed in a tiny purple dress. “Help,” shouted the older girl, as she was being comforted by next-door neighbours. “We can’t wake mum and dad up.”

The officers sprung into action. Grabbing whatever they could – nappies, an unopened can of infant formula and a baby bottle – the officers took the children to the Birmingham South Precinct where they would liaise with officials from the Child Protective Services of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHS).

At the precinct, officers bought whatever the other kids wanted to eat from a vending machine. One officer, Michelle Burton, removed her vest and other police gear so she could comfortably hold the infant and give her a bottle.

“A lot of us are parents,” Birmingham police spokesman Lt Sean Edwards told Washington Post. “We just go into parent mode and not necessarily police mode... Officer Burton, she just really wanted to grab the baby and just cuddle the baby.”

Ms Burton, who has two children of her own, spent much of the night caring for the child before it was handed over to officials from the DHS. At some point somebody took a photograph and Ms Burton's husband, Brian Burton, himself a police sergeant, posted it to his Facebook page, with a message of praise for his wife.

“Last night, my wife Michelle Burton told me she would be late getting off work because of a call she was on where the parents of four small children had both overdosed,” he said.

“Michelle said the father was dead and the mother was critical. She spent the rest of the night taking care of these babies. She got home at 4 this morning. I’ve never seen her more beautiful than in this picture. What an incredible woman.”

The girl’s mother was taken to a local hospital where she is said to be in a critical condition. Meanwhile, the photograph of Ms Burton went viral, and people came up to her to praise her actions.

“I’m overwhelmed about the whole thing,” she said. “I don’t want people to think that it’s only me that does this. We all do things like this... It was one of those nights where everybody worked together and everybody did what they needed to do.”

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