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Twice Blessed : After 14 Years, a Chance Encounter Reunites a Compton Police Sergeant With the Boy He Gave the Breath of Life

September 08, 1993|ABIGAIL GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fourteen years ago, Sgt. Willard Williams of the Compton Police Department saved the life of an 8-month-old baby named Gregory.

Early one Sunday morning in June, 1979, Williams heard a radio dispatch about a dead body at a San Marcus Street home. Williams was the first to arrive on the scene.

"I walked into the living room and a lady and several other people came from the rear portion of the house carrying what appeared to be the lifeless body of an infant," Williams recalls. "They said that it was dead."

Williams grabbed the child, laid him on the couch and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After about a minute and a half, the baby began breathing.

"I think I'll always remember that--it's one of the things I'm proudest of in my 27 years here," Williams says. "I saw an infant . . . in peril and I related to it because that child really hadn't had a chance to live."

Gregory Young, now 14, never knew about his encounter with Williams. But at the beginning of the summer, he signed up for a Compton summer jobs program and was sent to the Compton Police Department to do clerical work.

Although Williams had not seen Gregory since the boy was 4 or 5, Gregory's mother, Victoria Meeks, phones with periodic updates about her son. When Gregory began his job with the Police Department, Williams got a call.

Williams brought the 1979 newspaper story about the incident when he went to police headquarters to reintroduce himself to Gregory.

"I'm thinking, what are the chances that we had the initial encounter that we had and then he ends up working at the Police Department?" Williams says. "I was really happy to see him."

Gregory says he did not know how to react. "He showed me the newspaper article and I was kind of quiet," Gregory says. "I didn't know anything about it.

"I guess I should have told him thank you."

The 10th-grader at Dominguez High School says he wants to be scientist--or a basketball player--when he grows up.

"Gregory is special because God gave him another chance at life," Meeks says. "And he makes me proud. He is really a good kid."

For Williams, 53, meeting Gregory again provided some context to a career that is winding down. Police work is often anonymous, he says. A crime prevented, an assault halted or a child saved can seem like isolated incidents in a day. But this incident, Williams says, grew up and came back.

"Now that he's here, you look and say I may have had a direct relationship between his being here now or not," Williams says. "It is a powerful thought. I'm humbled by it."

Gregory has no such grand thoughts when he thinks about what happened to him and Williams.

"He is going to take me on a helicopter trip and no one else is going to go, so it makes me feel kind of good," Gregory says. "He's a friend. He's all right."

Compton Police Chief Hourie Taylor sees Gregory as a powerful statement for his department. At a time when police are often recognized more for negative incidents than positive ones, he says, seeing an intelligent, well-mannered young man like Gregory can make a difference in how officers view their work.

"It makes everybody feel good that someone who is part of this organization is responsible for this kid being alive," Taylor says.

"These things become sort of routine, like just part of the job, when they should mean more than that. In this situation you actually end up seeing the fruits of your labor, seeing this kid grow up positively and be a productive young person."

In the picture that accompanied the 1979 story, Williams, a burly man, holds Gregory and tries to quiet him. The officer's hand is bigger than the boy's head.

Gregory, a lanky 5-foot-11, looks at the picture and screws up his face. "I look ugly," he says.

"Now I reflect back to that night when I first saw his limp body and say hey, this appears to be a good human being developing," Williams says.

"Hopefully, somewhere down the line one day, he may have a chance to do something that really means something to someone."

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