When 5-month-old Kason Thomass was found in a car in Indianapolis just before Christmas, which was just days after the car he and his twin brother Kyair Thomass were in was stolen, the Indianapolis police had a moving story to tell about the rescue. Kyair had already been found and the suspect had been arrested, but baby Kason was missing with temperatures about to plunge. According to reports—two Indianapolis police sergeants out on the hunt for the baby happened to find him in a car outside the pizza place they had stopped at to eat. Pictures of one of the sergeants holding the baby spread quickly, a nice heartwarming moment of the police at their best.
The next day, a different story emerged. The women who had already led police to the car thief/kidnapper had kept up their search for Kason, the Indianapolis Star reported. Armed with a bus schedule left in their car by the kidnapper, they searched along the bus route for vehicles covered in snow, suggesting that they hadn’t been moved for a couple of days. Those women, Shyann Delmar and her cousin Mecka Curry, saw a snow-covered Honda, looked into it, saw a baby, and went and located the officers in the nearby pizza place.
“We've been alerted that the missing child may be located over here at the vehicle at 10th and Indiana,” an officer said over police radio. And then, “We have custody of the child that's missing.”
Delmar and Curry found that baby after they had already kept the suspect occupied through a series of shopping trips and a traffic stop while they desperately tried to communicate with police that they had her. They could be heard in the background as the police called in that the baby was found and they could be seen in the background of the officer holding the baby. But this was the local news report about the baby being found:
“You kind of get this feeling of maybe time might be running out or whatever the case may be,” Sgt. El said. “And so, I just feel like it was pretty urgent for us to try to locate him.”
It would be just before their shift ended when they finally did find baby Kason. He was found outside a Papa John’s in Indianapolis. A worker there told 10TV’s sister station in Indianapolis that the baby was likely left alone in the vehicle since Tuesday morning when the vehicle was first spotted there.
“When we found him, he was cold, right, but he was awake, he was breathing, he was moving around a little bit,” Sgt. El said. “His eyes were open wide and just trying to take everything in.”
Sgt. Anderson cradled the baby in his arms, and pictures of those moments spread quickly across the Internet.
“It was time for us to decompress because we were disappointed that we could not find him,” Sgt. Shawn Anderson of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department told CNN affiliate WISH-TV. “And then God opened up the heavens to us and almost took him and put him right in our hands.”
The police sergeants got a tip and responded to it immediately and got into the locked car and got the baby. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Their joy and relief at finding him was likely real and heartfelt. But then the police hype machine went to work and suddenly they just found that baby on their own—“God opened up the heavens”—which was not true, unless Delmar and Curry were God and/or the heavens.
And while, again, the picture of the sergeant holding Kason was innocent enough until it was used to promote a false account of how the baby was found, there is a disturbing recent history of police using pictures of an officer holding a baby for overt propaganda purposes. In 2020, following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., police promoted a photo of an officer appearing to comfort a Black toddler, describing the child as “lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness.” In reality, video showed that the police had pulled the child and his mother from her vehicle, separated them, and assaulted the mother. Then claimed to have been comforting a poor lost child.
Basically, never trust a picture of a police officer holding a baby. Never trust a police department’s account of their officers’ heroics until it’s been independently confirmed by a media organization that does something other than uncritically run police press releases.