Four County employees standing in front of the Veterans Services Office.
From left to right: Outreach Coordinator John Aparicio, Administrative Assistant David Gutierrez, VA Work Study Student Ariles Amokrane and County Veterans Services Officer Christopher Lopez.

County Team Springs into Action to Aid Injured Child

Author: Veterans Services Office
Date: 12/20/2017 1:00 PM

In early December, four members of the County Veterans Services team rushed to help a small child injured in a hit-and-run near their office.

December 8 started like any other Friday for the County Veterans Services Office team. But the day would end in heroism. During a late-afternoon meeting, the team suddenly heard a faint scream from afar. A hush quickly came over the room. Then they heard a second blood-curdling scream coming from outside. 

The team rushed out to the Veterans Memorial Building parking lot and were met with a woman yelling, “A kid just got hit by a car!” A pickup truck had struck a 3-year-old boy on Mill Street, adjacent to the County office, and the driver had fled the scene. 

The County Veterans Services team immediately sprang into action to assist. Veterans Services Officer Christopher Lopez, Outreach Coordinator John Aparicio, Veterans Affairs Work Study Student Ariles Amokrane, and Administrative Assistant David Gutierrez sprinted toward the screams coming from a home across the street. When they reached the open doorway, they saw a mother and her young son surrounded by his toys. He was covered in blood, the back of his head soaked in red.  

“When I saw the child and his head wound I noticed how young he looked, and my first thought was taking off my sweater to wrap his head until John mentioned he had a med pack,” Gutierrez said. “I don't even want to imagine what might have happened (had we not been there), but the mother seemed to calm when we arrived to help.”

The child's mother called 9-1-1 and Aparicio raced back across the street with Gutierrez to retrieve a military-grade first-aid kit from the trunk of his car, while Lopez and Amokrane stayed at the house to tend to the child. Gutierrez took the first-aid kit back to the house and Aparicio ran back to the office to grab a second kit in case it was needed. Amokrane held the young boy while Lopez applied gauze to stop the bleeding and stabilize his wounds until a medical team arrived. 

Aparicio stayed outside as the team administered first aid. He tried to calm distressed witnesses and gather information for the police. 

"My military service played a big role in preparing me to respond to this kind of emergency by training me not to freeze during a crisis, to keep thinking under stress and act accordingly,” Aparicio said. “Also (my service prepared me) to be situationally aware and notice those who might be succumbing to the stress of the situation and be sympathetic to them while helping them through that crisis.”

The boy was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was treated for his wounds. But the suspect in the hit-and-run is still at large.

“My wish is that the criminal behind this is brought to justice,” Amokrane said. “After seeing something like this play out, and the real possibility that this individual could get away, I want to support our community's law enforcement agencies to make sure they have the resources to bring to justice those who run away after harming a child.”

The San Luis Obispo Police Department is asking for the public’s help to find the driver and sole occupant of the truck. He is described as a Hispanic male adult in his 20s, wearing a green hooded sweatshirt. The truck is described as an early to mid-1990s white Ford F-250 extended cab truck with a miscellaneous green and black sign on the passenger’s side door, a possible lumber rack, and several construction items in the bed.

Lopez revisited the child's home a few days later to see how he and his family were holding up. He said the boy was home and his mother said he was going to make a full recovery.

“This heart-wrenching event absolutely brought the team together as if we were in combat,” Lopez said. “I am honored and blessed to work with such a great team. The high level of comradery is impeccable. I can’t thank everyone enough for stepping up when it was necessary.” 

Anyone with information about the driver is encouraged to call the SLO Police Department at (805) 781-7313.