JSO officer honored for saving child's birthday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A local law enforcement officer is being honored for going above and beyond the call of duty for what started as a routine burglary investigation.

Detective Derek Pratico has been with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for 10 years and currently works on the Violent Crimes Task Force.

But back in March, he was on patrol when he was dispatched to the city's west side for a van that had been broken into overnight.

"It was an older van. The locks didn't work well. The complainant was hysterical," he recalled.

The victim was a mother who told Pratico the crook had also stolen her young son's birthday present that she was storing inside her vehicle.

"She had just gotten her tax return check a few days before and spent it on clothing for her and her husband and other children, as well as Brandon, who was turning three," he said.

Being a father himself, Pratico could not shake the thought of how the woman must have been feeling.

"I kind of put myself in that situation. What would I do if I couldn't provide for my children?" he said.

So, after filing a report, he went out the next day and used more than $100 of his own money to buy Brandon a birthday present, cake and card.

But, that's not all.

Sheriff John Rutherford noted during an awards ceremony at JSO headquarters on Thursday that Pratico took his good deed one step further.

"He also purchased as $100 gift card to help the mother make up for her losses," he said.

Then, the detective showed up on Brandon's birthday to deliver all of the gifts before snapping a photo with the little boy.

The moment later went viral when it was posted on the sheriff department's Facebook page.

Rutherford said, "It got more than four million views, more than any other story we've ever posted." He also noted that several national media outlets picked up the story.

Pratico added, "People I had not talked to in 20 years from back in high school made contact with me."

Now, he is the recipient of this month's Six Pillars of Character award.

It's an honor the agency hands out to one of its own on an annual basis for being an exemplary employee with outstanding work ethic and character.

"I want to thank you for making a positive impact on this Jacksonville family and representing JSO in such a positive light," Sheriff Rutherford said before handing Pratico his framed certificate.

Several members of Pratico's family, including his daughters, were on hand to see the special occasion. The mother and son were not in attendance because they've since moved, the sheriff's office indicated.

But Pratico said he didn't help the family to get attention and admitted any other officer would have done the same thing.

"There are a lot of officers that do that and they do that every day," he said.

But he said he remains thankful for the recognition and hopes other officers will soon be awarded for their kind acts that often go unnoticed.


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