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Daniel Rubin
Philadelphia Inquirer Column

PHILADELPHIA - It's good the Philadelphia police have a supply of teddy bears for times like these.
The boy was walking out of his house, escorted by two officers, as Capt. Daniel Castro pulled up to the shooting in Fairhill.
Joshua Garcia was 6, oldest of four siblings. He was the one who'd discovered their parents' bodies.
"Hello, young man," Castro began.
"Hi."
"How are you doing?"
"So-so."
When Castro asked the boy if he could say what happened, Joshua launched into a disarmingly vivid account. He told the captain he'd been watching TV when he realized he hadn't seen his parents in a while. He called for them, and knocked on their bedroom door. No answer.
He pushed in the door far enough to let him climb a bureau that was blocking his way. He found his mother on the bed, his father on the floor. Neither would budge.
The boy related how he ran to neighbors and said he couldn't wake his parents. Try again, his neighbor counseled, and a few minutes later the boy was back, screaming, a .38-caliber revolver in his hand. A murder-suicide, police would conclude.

Promises to keep

Standing outside the rowhouse that night, Aug. 27, the boy told Castro he wanted to be a policeman when he grew up. Tell the detectives what happened, Castro promised the boy, and I'll get you a Philadelphia Police Department patch.
A chain of events was unfolding, where five police officers, none of whom Castro previously knew, would come together for a boy in crisis - something that later would help them in their own time of crisis.
Marcus Salas, an officer in the 25th District, ripped the patch from his shirt so the boy could have it. He remembered that his lieutenant kept a pile of teddy bears under his desk - "just in case."
As Detective Debbie Gore and Officer Carmen Sanchez of the criminal intelligence unit took the boy to headquarters, Joshua mentioned that his birthday was coming up. His father had said he'd get him a bike.
And the two policewomen promised he'd get that bike. "When you make a promise to a child," Sanchez says, "you better follow through."
That night, they sent him home with a patch, a captain's bar, and his new bear.
Now, fast-forward to Sept. 25. It's been two days since Officer Pat McDonald was gunned down during a car stop. The officers need something good in their lives.
They show up outside the house on Venango Street where the Garcia children now live with their grandparents. This next scene is captured on a video you can find on the Al Dia newspaper Web site.
"Do you remember us?" a male voice asks. Castro has returned with Gore and Sanchez, Salus and Salus' partner, Jose Cartagena.

Christmas in September

They've come bearing birthday gifts - a bicycle Castro has bought at a discount from Toys R Us. Wal-Mart has donated a lock, a helmet, and pads plus a $100 gift certificate.
Sanchez and Gore have gone into their own pockets to buy a second $25 gift card, from Toys R Us, and a marble cake with blue frosting that says "Happy Birthday Joshua. Wish You Well."
They sing. They watch as Joshua tries to demonstrate in the crowded house how he no longer needs training wheels.
They leave the boy's grandparents blown away.
"The officers were really beautiful," says the grandmother, Miriam Martinez. "I never expected that from them. Tragedies like this, you don't usually deal with cops afterwards."
On the video you can hear Joshua say what he is going to do with all the money - he'll buy a Scooby Doo costume for one sibling, take another to Chuck E. Cheese . . . .
The police officers ask him to make a wish, and he says, "I wish I never forget this day."

Wire Service
 
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