Six years ago, SWAT team member Orrlando Mayes emerged from an apartment with 16-month-old Michael Pittman Jr. in his arms, following a 56-hour standoff. On Thursday, Michael – now age 7 – was reunited with the team that saved his life.
“For us to see little Michael six years later, this is pretty amazing,” Mayes said, as he stood hand in hand with the child.
According to reports by The Sacramento Bee, on June 9, 2010, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies and Concord police officers pursued 25-year-old Anthony Alvarez, who was suspected in a series of Bay Area robberies and a San Francisco homicide. When Concord police tried to arrest Alvarez, he shot an officer and fled the scene, eventually making his way to the Arden Town Apartments.
When Alvarez noticed authorities outside the apartment complex, he picked up Michael , his cousin’s son – who was 16 months old – and entered his cousin Alexis Pittman’s apartment.
Alvarez proceeded to hold the child hostage in the apartment for nearly three days, shooting at SWAT team members on several occasions. The boy’s parents escaped the apartment.
The standoff mobilized more than 100 deputies, who camped out around the Arden Way apartment complex and coordinated efforts from headquarters to save Michael. Every 12 hours, deputies from the Sheriff’s Department and officers from the Sacramento Police Department would rotate shifts. In a final attempt to enter the apartment, on the night of June 11, authorities fatally shot Alvarez.
Mayes left the apartment with the uninjured child in his arms, and was met with applause and widespread relief.
On Thursday, Michael was reunited with his rescuers from the Sheriff’s Department and the Sacramento Police Department in Carmichael, at the Sacramento Sheriff’s Academy Grounds.
In an interview before the event, Sacramento County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnbull highlighted the unique opportunity the event provided for law enforcement officers involved.
“Day in and day out we come into people’s lives, and we’re rarely able to reconnect with them,” Turnbull said. “It’s on to the next call. That’s just the nature of our work.”
At the event, Mayes said that Michael does not fully understand the magnitude of what happened six years ago, but that Michael’s parents had explained to the child who Mayes was, in addition to showing Michael a photo of Mayes carrying him out of the apartment. Mayes described himself as “just a cog in the wheel” who helped save Michael, but admitted that the reunion was very emotional for him. He recalled Michael not crying once, as Mayes picked him up and brought him out of the apartment after days of gunfire and heated negotiations.
“I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget those three days. I’ll never forget that moment (of bringing Michael out of the apartment). I’ll never forget this moment here. It’ll be something that I always remember,” Mayes said, adding that events like Michael’s rescue are why he went into law enforcement.
The rescue also inspired someone else — Michael’s uncle, Deputy Dominic Pittman — to join the Sheriff’s Department. Dominic , who was in the military at the time of the initial incident, said he was sitting at a computer in Iraq as the standoff took place in Sacramento. He added that he had only been to Sacramento a few times before the incident, but knew after Michael’s rescue that he would be here working with the Sheriff’s Department.
Dominic recently finished going through the Sheriff’s academy and was hired by the Sheriff’s Department in May 2015, giving tactical team members the chance to reconnect with Michael. Nearly 20 officers were at the event, with members of the Pittman family also present.
When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, Michael, a first-grader, was happy to respond.
“I want to be a police officer, just like him,” Michael said, pointing to Mayes. “He helps people.”