RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The mother of a deaf teen says a Raleigh police officer saved her daughter’s life after he used sign language to help talk her off a bridge.
Maria Daley says she was “terrified and didn’t know what to do” as her daughter was standing on a bridge over Interstate 40 Tuesday afternoon.
She says she’s grateful for the officer who used sign language to communicate with her 16-year-old daughter until she came down off the bridge.
“If the officer had not been there, she probably would have jumped,” said Daley. “Normally when the police are called, none of the officers know sign language. I’m very excited someone was out there to communicate with her.”
Raleigh police blocked all lanes near Rock Quarry Road starting around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The girl came off the bridge around 4:45 p.m. She was unharmed, police said, and was being evaluated at a local crisis center.
Daley says her daughter “got upset and said she was going to hurt herself” after Daley took away her phone. Daley later found a note left for her saying she was going to the bridge.
Daley says she was trying to protect her daughter by taking the phone away after she caught the teen using anonymous messaging apps on her phone, such as Kik. The popular messaging app has been linked to a growing number of child sexual abuse cases.
The officer has declined to be identified and the Raleigh Police Department says they have no ASL training program. The officer learned how to sign on his own, police say.
One of the North Carolina Department of Transportation cameras picked up the officer making gestures to the girl. Witnesses tell WNCN they saw the officer communicate with the girl by sign language for about 30 minutes.
“It’s good that he knew sign language, I feel like more people need to learn it,” said witness Sean Day. “It shows that he had a lot of patience and he didn’t let whatever he had on his mind interfere with what was going on.”
Daley hopes the powerful moment will encourage more people to learn sign language, leading to more shared connections and maybe saved lives.