Citizens are thanking the men and women in blue daily after the deadly sniper shootings in Dallas that took the lives of five officers. Tuesday, a 2-year-old's mom caught on camera what happened when they thanked a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer.
The viral video was recorded at a Charlotte gas station. Ornella Lenga said she didn't know the officer but wanted to encourage her daughter, Brianna, to say hello.
On the video you can hear Officer Ashley Brown saying, “Nice to meet you.”
Brianna's mom said, “Say bonjour with your right hand.”
The officer and the girl then shake hands. That was the 2-year-old's first time meeting an officer.
“We’ve been teaching her the importance of law enforcement and how they’re supposed to be our heroes. So whenever she’s scared or has a problem because mommy and daddy are not always going to be there … I want her to understand that she could always, always go to the police,” Lenga said.
Some of the meeting was caught on video, and some of it wasn't.
“I just pumped gas, and when I turned around to walk into the store, I saw this little girl walking up to me,” Brown said. “So, I just went over, kneeled down … and she hugged me and wouldn’t let go.”
“It just happened we ran into Officer Ashley, they literally hugged for a minute. I wasn’t able to get it on camera, and that’s when I realized I need to put this on my phone,” Lenga said.
Brown just happened to have a trunk full of toys. She's the community coordinator in the Hickory Grove division and has been an officer since 1998.
“Even as a rookie in training in patrol out in the field, I was buying toys to give to kids,” Brown said.
Lenga posted Brianna and Brown's meeting to combat a difficult week of violent videos.
“There’s so much negativity going on, it’s sad. It’s just ridiculous. So the only way to conquer negativity is to promote positivity,” Lenga said.
“One of the good things about the kids – especially at that age – they don’t really have that negative ideas about interacting with the police, and I want to keep it that way,” Brown said.
Lenga said she hopes these moments will make a lifelong impression.
“I don’t want her to fear or to be intimidated or to be scared. That’s not what I’m trying to instill in her,” Lenga said.
Wednesday, Brianna thanked Brown for the bubbles and for sharing her job. Even at 2, she could retell what she saw and did.
“Right now it may seem silly, but it speaks volumes because three years from now – whenever – she’ll see a police officer, (and) she’ll still have this same affection towards them because it was instilled in her at a very young age,” Lenga said.
Brown said she's been getting messages and voicemails about the posted video.
“Proud to represent officers and the department as a whole, to show that people are out there we do care, we are here to help,” Brown said.
Brown had a new officer following her around Wednesday. He was able to see how she naturally interacts with kids and makes them feel comfortable.
CMPD said they are focused on community engagement and have community coordinators in place in every division.
WBTV is the Observer’s news partner.