“I thought, ‘We’re surrounded in a bad way,’” said Leilani Rowley, 10, as 11 police SWAT officers in full gear walked into the room at University Medical Center on Tuesday.
Leilani was getting an infusion of platelets to prepare for a bone marrow transplant Wednesday.
It was her first up-close look at a SWAT team.
The Tucson police Special Weapons and Tactics officers visited the young patients to cheer them on in their struggle with cancer or aplastic anemia or recent surgery. The visit was arranged by UMC Child Life Specialist Mary Celeste Stone.
“My kids know the police are the good guys,” said Leilani’s mother, Heather Rowley, who wore striped pajamas, furry slippers and a surgical mask just like her daughter’s.
She said people stare less at her daughter when they dress the same.
Leilani, a fifth-grader who attended Safford Middle School, is home-schooled because of her illness, but she wants to return to the classroom, she said.
Sgt. Robert Allen and Officers Armando Olivas and Pierre De La Ossa said they brought along “less lethal” weapons that fire wooden pegs instead of bullets to demonstrate to the children the different tools they have to fight the bad guys.
The officers also handed out police department stickers and pencils.
Officer Norm Scheopner showed off SWAT’s “Recon Scout” robot camera, which looks like a dog toy but is fitted with a tiny camera and moves like a remote-controlled toy car.
SWAT officers told the children they toss it inside a building and maneuver it like a remote-controlled toy. Their hand-held video monitor shows them what’s going on inside without having to put themselves at risk.
Ira Lovell, 9, is in third grade at La Paloma Academy, and he was hooked up to IVs as he recovered from an appendectomy the day before.
“It was cool,” he said of the SWAT officers’ visit. His mother said this was his first time out of bed since the surgery.
When Denise Briggs’ son Troy, 8, a second-grader, saw the SWAT officers walk into the pediatric play room, he was curious about their guns, he said.
He asked one of the officers seated at the the child-size table with him to take a cartridge out of his magazine so he could get a closer look. The officer said it was a hollow point.
“I saw a bullet in the road once,” Troy said.
An officer took out his bullet-resistant vest plate and let Troy tap on it so he could see how hard it is.
“I actually felt kind of cool,” he said after the visit with the officers. “I’ve never met a cop before.”
He said he liked what the SWAT cops call “the dog bone,” the robot camera.
“I never knew they used a robot for special missions,” Troy said.SWAT at UMC
TPD SWAT visits kids at UMC
The Tucson Police Department’s SWAT, Special Weapons and Tactics Team, visit pediatric inpatients at University Medical Center. The officers spoke to the kids about what it takes to be a Tucson Police Officer and SWAT Team member and showed them some of the special equipment they use.
Producer: Renee Bracamonte