Photo of Rohnert Park officer hugging missing man goes viral

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It’s not every day a picture of a police officer makes you go, “Aw.” But that’s exactly what happened when the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety posted a photo of Police Officer Justin Thompson hugging a Rohnert Park man.

The photo, accompanied by the caption “Motor Officer Justin Thompson is really feeling the love today after locating a missing (special needs) resident on the creek path,” was posted Wednesday on the department’s Facebook page.

It had more than 12,000 likes between the original post and a repost of the photo by Frank Somerville of KTVU.

Rohnert Park police Lt. Jeff Justice said the man in the photo has autism, and his mother reported Wednesday that he had left home and she couldn’t find him.

The man was known to Thompson, Justice said, and the officer knew that he liked to walk on the bridge over Copeland Creek.

So Thompson headed down to check the spot, and located the man. Thompson is a peer-support officer, Justice said, and so has special training on giving emotional support to people who need it.

“When the man saw Officer Thompson, he looked a little relieved but was still stressed,” Justice said. “So Officer Thompson, having previous contact with him … took off his helmet so he could see who he was and gave him the hug to help calm him down.”

The man was quickly reunited with his mother, safe and sound, Justice said.

“It’s just a really good example of Officer Thompson showing that caring and human side,” Justice said. “Police officers are human beings as well as everyone else and we understand and appreciate things that people in our community go through, and want to connect with people in our community to make it a better and safer place.”

Thompson was out of the office Thursday and not available for comment.

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