When law enforcement officers responded to a late-evening call about a teen climbing a water tower, they discovered a suicidal 8th grader near the top who only wanted to talk to one person: his school resource deputy.
The ordeal began after a 9:37 p.m. call to the Kansas City, Missouri police department about a runaway teen on May 24. Shortly after, the teen was spotted climbing the Worlds of Fun water tower near the 5000 block of North Bristol Avenue.
When the officers arrived on scene the teen was about 115 feet off the ground, near the top of the tower, according to Clay County Sheriff Will Akin.
Despite being surrounded by police officers, the teen only wanted to talk to Clay County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Bransfield, to say goodbye and thank him for everything he’d done at his middle school.
Bransfield had just gotten into bed and turned his phone to silent for the night when he got bombarded with calls from unknown numbers. One of the callers, a KCPD captain, reached Bransfield to explain the situation.
“Without any hesitation at all, I said, ‘Absolutely, give me 25 minutes and I’ll be there,’” Bransfield told The Lion. “Honestly, the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘God, let me make it there on time, and if this is what I have to do, then give me the strength and the words in order to change an outcome.’”
Bransfield says he knew the student, who he intentionally interacted with every day at the Clay County middle school he serves. Whenever the 8th grader saw “Deputy B” in the hallway, they’d high five, shake and give each other a hug.
Bransfield arrived at the water tower at 10:15 p.m. to find the boy standing on what the deputy described as “a very thin ring” more than 100 feet from the ground.
“As soon as he heard my voice, he was able to know it was me,” Bransfield said. “He just wanted to say, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and I just want to tell you goodbye, and I don’t want you to see this.’”
Bransfield assured the teen he wasn’t going anywhere and began talking to him about his own struggles.
“He kept saying he was scared, and I said, ‘You’re scared because you do have a purpose,’” Bransfield recalled. “‘You’re scared because you don’t want this to happen because you and I both know that there’s a reason why you’re here and having second thoughts. You have a reason why you’re doing this, so let’s figure it out together.’”
Bransfield continued to talk with the teen for about 40 minutes before the teen climbed down safely.
“Every time that he would take a step down, he would say, ‘One step at a time,’ and I would immediately follow it up with ‘One day at a time,’” Bransfield said. “I’m telling him we’re going to take it one day at a time, we’re not going to get everything figured out right then and there.”
As soon as the teen’s feet hit the ground Bransfield embraced him in a big hug and told him he was proud of him.
“In that moment I was extremely proud of him because he just overcame something that a lot of people can’t,” Bransfield said.
From there, the teen was transported by ambulance to receive mental health treatment.
“I was used as a vessel that night,” Bransfield said, reflecting on what happened. “God used me as a vessel to shine a light on something that was so dark.”
Bransfield, who was re-baptized as an act of Christian rededication on April 30, believes wholeheartedly that God put him in that crisis for a reason.
“I keep getting called a hero. I keep getting called an angel,” Bransfield told The Lion. “I keep getting called all these things and I’m just like, ‘Man, I’m just Jonathan Bransfield.’
“I’m just doing what I’m called to do, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without giving glory to the One that put me in this position – and that’s God alone.”
Remarkably, it’s the second life-saving situation Bransfield has found himself in this school year.
In December, an 8th grader came into his office to confess something before passing out.
“He came into my office and said, ‘Deputy B, I need to talk to you. I did something bad,’ Bransfield recalls.
Bransfield asked him what was going on. The student said he had taken a pill and didn’t feel well.
“He ended up going unconscious after I called for an ambulance, possible overdose,” Bransfield said. “I ended up picking him up and throwing him over my shoulder and firemen carried him down to the nurse’s office to wait for the ambulance.”
The teenager made a full recovery after being treated by medical staff. Deputies later determined the boy had ingested multiple drugs.
“If not for the trusting relationship Deputy Bransfield had established with the student, the outcome could have been much worse,” the Sheriff’s Office said in statement.
State Rep. Bill Allen, who represents a portion of Clay County, says having officers like Bransfield in schools is “critically important” to the safety of students and faculty, and he hopes stories like these bring awareness to that.
“Schools must have them [resource officers] to keep them safe,” Allen told The Lion. “It’s as simple as that.”
Earlier this year, Allen sponsored a bill to make it easier for schools to hire resource officers like Bransfield. The bill’s language was adopted into Senate Bill 186, which passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.
“It’s technically illegal for anyone to have an armed weapon in schools,” Allen explained. “What my bill did was make it not illegal to carry weapons in schools. It incentivizes schools to hire officers and stops people from prosecuting them. It protects the officer.”
For Bransfield, being armed is an important component of his service at the school.
“It’s one of those things where you meet force with force. That’s a law enforcement tool, a law enforcement saying that we’ve said long before I ever became a law enforcement officer: you meet force with force,” said Bransfield, who has been in law enforcement for 11 years. “Why not be prepared? Why not be ready for when that wolf howls at the door?”
And in addition to the physical safety and security he provides, the school resource deputy continues to emphasize his role as a mentor.
“What I’m here for is to mentor, guide, and also to be an avenue for somebody that maybe just doesn’t feel comfortable talking to a teacher or another student,” Bransfield told students in a video introduction for the school. “I want to be that for you.”
For at least two middle schoolers, that relationship has been life-saving.