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PHOTO: Police officer embraces man with autism after emotional rescue

A police officer in California was caught on camera embracing a man with autism who had wandered from his mother's home.

It's a heartwarming photo that's touched hearts across the country: An officer embraces a man in the middle of a raised path, the man's head on the officer's shoulder, his eyes closed. 

The City of Rohnert Park Police and Fire, located about 50 miles outside San Francisco, posted the picture on its Facebook page on May 8, where it has nearly 2,000 reactions. 

Credit: City of Rohnert Park Police and Fire
Police officer Justin Thompson rescues a man with autism after he went missing.

Just moments before, the officer, Justin Thompson, had rescued the man, who has autism. 

The man, who lives with his mother, had wandered from his home. His mother thought he was only going to the garage, but when she she couldn't find him 30 minutes later, she called the police to file a missing person's report, according to Rohnert Park's deputy chief Aaron Johnson.

Officer Thompson, who has worked in law enforcement for 20 years, knew the man, Johnson said. Thompson was on a motorcycle, so he was able to search a nearby raised path that crosses a creek. 

There, he found the man, who was scared and upset, Johnson said. Thompson worked to calm him down, and was eventually able to comfort him with a hug, which was captured in the photo. 

Johnson described Thompson, who helps employees inside the department as a peer support officer, as compassionate and humble. 

It was "very fitting" that Thompson was recognized in the photo, Johnson said. 

Facebook users commented on the photo with messages of support for the officer and man. 

"Thank you from a father with a daughter with autism, it’s comforting to know that some officers know how to handle a person with autism," one man wrote. 

"Compassion is a wonderful virtue; this officer certainly shows his," another posted. 

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