Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Jacob Swalwell was about to cite panhandler Michael Myers, but the cop had an epiphany after the two started talking and immediately decided to have mercy on the man.
The chance encounter unfolded on a freeway off-ramp in Hayward, California, where Swalwell saw Myers, 66 — a local man he had noticed begging for money over the years — and prepared to issue a ticket for panhandling on the freeway.
“It’s a safety issue, and that was more of a concern than the panhandling,” Swalwell told KGO-TV.
“I don’t exist anymore.” This @ACSOSheriffs deputy helped a homeless man without a driver’s license finally get the ID he needed to apply for Social Security and get off the streets. pic.twitter.com/5RoGst1gwo
— Jonathan Bloom (@BloomTV) December 28, 2017
But Swalwell said that he took the time to talk to Myers and was intrigued to learn that the man didn’t have a criminal history and had actually tried in the past to get off the streets — but to no avail. At one point, Myers was a truck driver, but an accident reportedly left him in a wheelchair and then on crutches. Persistent pain later made working too difficult.
In the end, Swalwell decided to help Myers rather than simply write him the ticket, as the officer learned that Myers panhandles three times a day not for “alcohol or drugs,” but to, instead, merely “stay alive.”
“I started to get to know more about him and I realized he didn’t need a citation, he needed someone to help him,” the officer told KPIX-TV.
Swalwell also learned that Myers had been turned away from getting benefits due to the fact that he didn’t have a viable ID. So, the officer stepped up and helped the man find his birth certificate — a first step in helping him get his life on track.
That, alone, yielded some surprises, as Myers had reportedly never seen his birth certificate before.
“I thought I was born Michael Myers, but according to my birth certificate, my name is Gordon Myers,” Myers told KPIX.
Then, Swalwell helped Myers secure proof of his California residency, which allowed him to obtain a much-needed ID — something that can help him find his way off the streets.
In the end, Swalwell said he believes helping people like Myers obtain these documents is the least he and other officers can do.
The man on the left is Michael Myers, a 67 year old panhandler. That’s Deputy Jacob Swalwell standing next to him. He’s…
The two men also shared that their interactions taught them something about the other: that’s there’s much more than the stereotypes that people tend to embrace.
“We both realized at the same time that there is a real person there and not just the stereotype we saw when we first met each other,” Myers said. And Swalwell said that the entire experience has taught him to “get to know people better.”
Myers has had some job offers since his story went viral as well, leading up to what could be a happy ending to a very harrowing ordeal.