Bus drivers transport hundreds of people on a daily basis. They see various faces get on and off their buses. Some are regulars, and some they only you see that day. That’s precisely the experience Tim Watson has on his daily bus route. But one fateful day, a couple of new faces would become stuck in his mind forever.
When a man and a little boy boarded his bus on July 5, 2015, Watson couldn’t have imagined what he would have to do next. But thanks to his sharp eyes and instinctive actions, Watson would become a hero. When Tim Watson arrived for work on Friday morning, he didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. Most days were typically the same for the bus driver. He’d start his route and watch the collection of passengers pass through the bus at each stop.
In the eight months that Watson had been working for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, he’d seen his fair share of passengers. Some were happy to be there, while others had seen better days. Each passenger was preoccupied with their lives, and he knew to stay out of their business until one little boy entered the bus. Watson’s route started at the Great Mall in the Bay Area city of Mil Pedis, California. There were the usual passengers on their daily commute to school or work, but occasionally there were a few who were taking his route for the first time.
As Watson was preparing to start his route, a man came up to him. He asked me what time the bus was leaving. I told him it leaves at 11:13 a.m. He told me an independent Journal. Watson didn’t think much of it, but the man would turn out to be someone he paid close attention to.
Shortly after his inquiry, the man boarded the bus with a little boy. He attempted to pay for the bus fare with $2, but Watson informed him it cost $4 to ride the express bus. That’s when the man whipped out a transit card for disabled persons to get a reduced fare. The man, who looked to be about in his mid 20s, didn’t appear disabled, but Watson knew not to make assumptions and let them board the bus. The man and the boy quietly walked to some seats toward the back.
As they sat down, Watson noticed that the little boy had started crying. This was not an unusual sight to see on the bus. He’d seen many young children board the bus with their families and start having temper tantrums. Watson figured that that must be what was going on with this little boy and proceeded to mind his own business. But still, there was something about the boy’s demeanor that Watson couldn’t get out of his mind.
It didn’t seem like he was having a typical temper tantrum. Watson began his 15 miles bus route, and as much as he needed to pay attention to the road. He kept glancing at the teary eyed boy through his rear view mirror. The man tried to get the boy to keep quiet, even telling him to try to go to sleep. Still, the boy continued to cry, which gave Watson a strange feeling.
There was something about this boy’s sadness that just didn’t seem right, and Watson couldn’t help but feel like he needed to keep his eye on the situation. That’s when he heard a beeping sound and soon it would be time for Watson to spring into action. The VTA was alerting all of its drivers of a child abduction that occurred earlier that morning. A three year old boy was taken from the Milpitas Public Library that day at around 10:40 A.m.. As Watson read more of the urgent message, his mind started to put two and two together.
The message described the missing three year old is wearing a dark blue shirt, Plaid shorts, and red croc sandals. Watson instantly thought of the boy who was crying in the back of the bus and wondered if there was a connection there. He peered into his rear view mirror but couldn’t get a good look at what the boy was wearing. Watson couldn’t do much at that moment as he was driving, so he continued on his route. Despite trying to put it out of his mind, Watson’s parental instincts wouldn’t let him as a father of two himself.
Watson’s heart sank as he read the urgent message. He thought of the missing child’s parents and couldn’t even begin to imagine how they must feel not knowing where their little boy was. The urgent message also described the suspect as an African American man, approximately 25 years old and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and jeans. Watson instantly connected this description to the man who was with the boy on the bus. At that moment, he knew he needed to find a way to verify that these were the people the police were looking for.
Watson looked back at the man, who looked impatient to disembark. Watson had to find a way to verify that he matched the description of the suspect without tipping him off. Watson knew that the man could get off the bus with the boy at any moment, so he needed to devise a plan quickly to keep them on board. All the passengers on the bus apparently were unaware of the missing child situation that was going on and were minding their own business. Nearing the end of the route, Watson thought hard about what he should do next.
That’s when he decided to do something out of the ordinary and pull off the freeway. He needed to execute this plan as seamlessly as possible. Watson stopped in front of the nearest McDonald’s and told passengers he was looking for a green backpack left behind by someone who had already gotten off. It was the perfect excuse to get up and get a good look at the man and the little boy. Luckily, none of the passengers questioned Watson’s impromptu stop.
Since a loan backpack could have signaled something serious, like a bomb threat, asking the passengers to check under their seats. While looking himself, Watson was able to slowly make his way towards the back of the bus. This was the perfect ruse for Watson to be able to get a good look at the suspicious man and the little boy. When he finally reached the road that they were in, he asked the man if he had seen the green backpack. The man replied that he had not.
At that point, Watson was able to get a good look at the boy’s clothes. Sure enough, I see the Plaid shorts and red shoes. That’s what really stuck out in my mind, Watson told ABC Seven. Watson’s suspicions confirmed, he slowly made his way back to the driver’s seat. He proceeded to his regular route, but decided to make a discreet phone call.
If anyone had seen him, they could have figured he was letting headquarters know he didn’t find the green backpack. Little did they know Watson was making a call to the VTA dispatcher to tell them that he believed the little boy and the suspected kidnapper were on his bus. At that point, Watson was instructed on exactly what he should do. The dispatcher told Watson to continue on his route as normal, but to drive slowly. They alerted the police of Watson’s suspicions.
Watson had already driven into the city of Fremont, miles away from where the boy was taken in Milpitas. Watson continued to drive cautiously as he neared the end of his route. He checked his rear view mirror once again to check on the suspect and the little boy. The boy’s tears had subsided and the man looked like he was ready to disembark. Neither had suspected a thing.
Watson knew that the authorities were aware of the situation and had plans to apprehend the suspect. Still, he worried that one wrong move could tip the guy off and let him get away. Watson hoped that he could help save the little boy. Watson was nearing his next stop at the Fremont Bart station. As he continued on the route, he noticed police cruisers pull up behind the bus with their lights flashing but their sirens off.
Luckily, there were no windows at the back of the bus that would allow the suspect to see any of this. The police quietly followed the bus to its next stop. Watson continued on, tentatively coming to a halt when they finally arrived at the bus stop. When he engaged the brakes, Watson noticed several police officers approached the bus from behind. Watson was aware that these next few moments could make or break the boys rescue.
So I opened my door one slowly, giving them time to get prepped and ready to go on. I opened up door two. The gentleman walks out calm, cool, collected as can be, and they take him down on the spot, Watson recalled the ABC seven news. The suspect was completely caught off guard by the fact that police were already waiting for him. Despite a bit of resistance, police were able to detain and arrest the kidnapper.
The little boy knew he was being rescued. His parents, who had already heard that the police had a potential lead, were notified that their little boy had been rescued. They were so relieved to hear the good news and had an emotional reunion with their son when he was taken to the police station for questioning. They were too distraught to give news outlets their side of the story. But incredibly grateful for the heroic bus driver who followed his intuition.
Once news of this rescue mission was made public, Tim Watson was lauded as a local hero. If not for his sharp eyes and instincts. Who knows where this little boy would have ended up had the kidnapper managed to get on board the bark trains? Finally, the boy returned to his parents at police headquarters. Watson couldn’t believe what had just happened and that’s when my own kids came to mind and I just broke down.
I couldn’t hold myself down. I just wanted to go inside the bus and reflect. Police said that the suspect had no connections to the family. They were still trying to figure out his motives for kidnapping their son. Regardless of what they were.
The man got on the right bus because Watson was driving it as a bus driver, Watson was taught what to do in these types of situations, Especially those that dealt with suspected human trafficking. But it wasn’t his training that sprung him into action. Even though we had all this training, the father instinct kicked in. He told Milpitas independent Journal.