NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A teenage boy was reported missing from his Manhattan home over the weekend, but he made his way home, thanks to a special bond formed with a police officer and their mutual love of video games.
“So on Saturday night, I received a 911 call for a child who left his home and didn’t tell his parents where he was going,” NYPD officer Gary Strebel explained.
The 15-year-old boy had gone missing from his Upper East Side home for a few hours.
The boy had apparently run away before and police found him at a nearby Apple store, sitting at a computer.
So police headed to the same Apple store and another one nearby, hoping for the same luck – he wasn’t there.
“When we went back to the apartment we started talking more to the father and I noticed that his computer was open,” Strebel said.
The father let Officer Strebel check out his son’s computer and he noticed an app called Discord – which lets video gamers communicate with each other online.
“So this app was open on his screen and it’s basically… once you’re logged in it looks like a chat room. So there’s different names, different conversations open, and I could see that he was chatting back and forth with some friends,” the officer told CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.
Strebel also loved video games and happened to have an account on Discord, so he sent a friend request to the teenager and they started messaging back and forth online.
Strebel told him right away he was a police officer. The teen messaged, “you sure don’t sound like a police officer.”
The officer wrote back, “Cus I’m a normal guy… I play League of Legends and Fortnite and I’m a cop and I want you to come home or tell me where you are.”
The teen answered,” OK I’ll take ur word for it and come back.”
“I was there when he got back… the parents were very happy to see him,” the young officer said.
Strebel is just 25-years-old and has been on the job for three and a half years. He told CBS2 parents need to know what their kids are doing online.
“Awareness is key, so just being aware. Everybody uses social media… and just keep an eye on what they’re doing on social media.”
The officer added he grew up loving video games, but never thought all that playing would help him on the job.