She couldn’t resist playing peekaboo with the stuffed yellow teddy bear.
And when the deputy offered it to the 4-year-old in exchange for a high five, Elizabeth Overton’s fear of law enforcement evaporated.
The little girl has always been afraid of police officers and deputies even though her parents have repeatedly told her they’re the good guys.
So when she saw Pierce County sheriff’s deputy Mike Sousley pass her in a hallway at Good Samaritan Hospital on Tuesday, Elizabeth hid behind a chair.
Her mother, Rosemarena Overton, tried to coax her out. The girl cautiously peeked out but didn’t budge.
In his 16 years with the department, Sousley has seen more than a few children frightened of the uniform. He sees it as a challenge to leave them with a positive impression.
“I don’t think kids should be afraid of us,” Sousley said. “We’re there to help and it’s important for them to know they can come to us for help.”
That’s why when he overheard Overton telling her daughter not to be afraid of him, he had to say hello.
A nurse saw what was happening and handed him a stuffed yellow bear. Sousley started playing peekaboo with the girl.
That got her attention.
She eventually crept out from behind the recliner when the deputy asked Elizabeth if she wanted the stuffed animal, which she promptly named Bear.
“She gave him a big high five and got in the chair with this little bear and she had the biggest smile on her face,” Overton said.
Sousley, who had been waiting for a nurse to get off the phone so he could get evidence on a case, told Elizabeth he had to get back to work.
As he walked away, she waved and called out, “Bye, officer, have a great day!”
Overton nearly burst into happy tears.
“It wasn’t an incident where we needed an officer. It was nothing where he had to interact with her,” she said. “It melted my heart that he took time out of his day to sit there and make a friend when he didn’t have to. He made her day and my day.”
Elizabeth hasn’t let Bear out of her sight.
She takes it down the slide on the playground and cuddles with it at home. She’s even brought up the “nice officer” to her parents.
Overton was so touched and thankful that she wrote a thank-you note to the department hoping her gratitude would find its way to the deputy, whose name she hadn’t thought to ask for.
Sousley read her words, even if it was with a touch of embarrassment. He said he was just doing his job.
“It’s something we do every day, but it makes you feel good,” he said.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653