They stand posing for the camera with smiles on their faces, arms around each other’s shoulders – a neighborhood beat cop and the attacker he nearly shot.
As of today, this Facebook snapshot has circled the Earth, finding its way to more than 250,000 eyes, generating a quarter-million “likes” from a public saturated with more ominous pictures from the streets.
That these two are both alive and forgiving enough to shake hands shows us a glimpse of what is possible in the tensest moments, a sight too rarely seen.
“No one is lost forever,” Officer J.D. Boyd wrote in his celebrated post. “I was glad it ended well for us both that day, and I am ecstatic now to learn that he has turned his life around and we can embrace as friends.”
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It happened in October, in the early afternoon. Boyd spotted a fight between a man and a woman in the parking lot of Raleigh North Millbank Court, and he drove his patrol car through the grass to break it up. The woman ran when he approached, but the man took a swing at his head. After he ducked and drew his baton, Boyd saw his assailant carried a knife.
“I saw the knife had blood on it,” said Boyd, a Raleigh officer since 2011. “I didn’t know if it was my blood, his blood or whose blood it was.”
Striking the man with the baton had no effect. Boyd stepped back and drew his gun, but the fighting man barked at him angrily.
“We were in kind of a standoff,” said Boyd, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan. “I did not want to engage him.”
They stood there, both armed, until more Raleigh officers arrived. At that point, Cory Sanders surrendered to police with a minor injury on his hand, getting charged with aggravated assault. Boyd, unhurt, had not fired a shot. Almost a year later, hearing him tell this story outside the same apartment, I asked Boyd how close he’d come to pulling the trigger.
“I’m not going to talk about that, sir,” he told me, and I don’t blame him.
It turns out Boyd and I have talked before, and you’ve probably seen him. Last February, he organized a snowball fight in Lions Park between himself and residents on his beat – a friendly melee that also sparked viral videos.
But he’s well-known for his Facebook posts: warning residents about slippery roads, warning drivers not to speed on certain streets, letting followers know about upticks in phone scams. He participates in a popular Stolen Bikes thread, uploading pictures of bikes officers have gotten back.
“I’ve recovered a lot of bikes through there,” he said. “I’m a rider myself. I had a bike stolen myself when I was a kid.”
But the story of the attack on Raleigh Boulevard didn’t come full circle until last week, when he spotted Sanders, 27, at the apartments. They talked for 15 minutes, and Boyd learned that Sanders had gotten himself together with the help of probation officers. He had a job and a new baby on the way.
“He apologized,” Boyd said. “I had forgiven him a long time ago. It was never personal. … I don’t want to just be the guy who shows up when something bad happens.”
So he and Sanders posed for a picture, which Boyd then posted.
“Almost a year ago, this man and I were involved in a major altercation where he tried to stab me in the head and I nearly shot him,” the officer wrote. “No one is ever lost forever, and as long as you continue to work to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday things will work out eventually.”
On Wednesday, with TV cameras swarming around his door, Sanders gave Boyd a quick fist bump and said, “It’s all good.”
But his girlfriend, Kendra Powell, 25, elaborated. She called Cory a changed man, working a good-paying job and excited about their son, who is due in November.
“I’m not grateful for jail,” she said, “but it really gave him time to think. It feels like Boyd was truly a godsend that day. One mistake doesn’t have to rule your destiny. Even that day, that incident, was just random.”
Stories like this can end this way. Let’s hope more of them do.