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Off Central: Crash spurs lifelong friendship between refugee family, Glendale officer

(KTAR Photo/Kathy Cline)

PHOENIX — A refugee family from Rwanda living in Glendale has a new friend.

It was a normal day in March for 3-year-old Ben Bazira until the car accident in front of his Glendale home. Officer Sean Mullane responded and noticed Ben after all the paperwork was completed.

“[Ben] was just in awe of the police cars and the lights,” Mullane said. “After everything was settled, I went back over to him. He was standing next to a woman who, I thought, was his mother. It actually turned out to be his sister. I asked if he would like to come over and see the police car. She said it was okay.

“He looked up at me; I put my hand out. He decided to take my hand and walk over with me.”

Little Ben was delighted even though he had to sit in Mullane’s lap because he was too short to see over the squad car’s steering wheel.

Over the next few days, Mullane brought Ben some police stickers and other small gifts. He also learned Ben, his parents and six siblings were refugees from Rwanda.

Mullane decided to help out with some groceries. He mentioned his plan to Glendale Police Commander Colby Brandt, whose sons played ball with Kory Gibson’s kids.

Gibson managed the Fry’s Food Store at 43rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road. He met with Mullane the day he came in.

“I told him, ‘Hey, just get what you need. Come find me when you’re done, and we’ll help you out,’” Gibson said.

After filling the cart with diapers, meat and other essentials, Mullane and Gibson split the bill themselves. Gibson, however, declined to help deliver the groceries.

“I said no, Gibson said. “It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was just hanging out and helping the community.”

The Bazira family were and are deeply grateful for the help. And Mullane – who has a young son himself – is grateful too, especially for little Ben.

“I made a friend,” he said. “I’m going to keep checking on him, see him grow. Seeing his smile on his face … and the laughter. He just has a tremendous laugh.

“That’s what made it all worthwhile.”

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