AUSTIN - Driving in Austin traffic is a struggle all in itself. Couple that with car trouble and a University of Texas graduation ceremony to get to, and you have an even more serious problem.
But thanks to two thoughtful Austin police officers, one Longhorn was able to overcome all of that and make it to campus just in time to walk the stage.
UT graduate Xavier Baldwin was driving his family to the ceremony when his vehicle broke down in the middle of an exit lane. Luckily for them, it didn’t take long for help to arrive.
“I would like to give special thanks to Sgt. Mike Cowden and Officer Ashley Uribe of the Austin Police Department for helping me when my Explorer broke down on my way to the commencement ceremony,” wrote Baldwin in a public Facebook post. “I was able to make it with minutes to spare thanks to their efforts.”
According to Cowden and Uribe’s report, who were both on assignment in the area for graduation, Cowden pulled up to the scene to find Baldwin and his family stalled on the 15th Street exit off Interstate 35. After talking with the family, Cowden said he then called Uribe, who was driving the proper vehicle to move Baldwin’s 1993 Ford Explorer out of the way of traffic without damage.
“The police interceptor that Uribe drove was also a Ford Explorer,” Baldwin remarked, “but it was from the latest generation. Mine was from the first.”
Though Baldwin’s mother, Betty Johnson, offered to stay with the vehicle to wait on the tow truck while Baldwin and his sister, Maya Baldwin, caught a ride to the ceremony, it was Cowden who insisted on staying with the car while Uribe gave the family a ride to campus. In the meantime, Cowden was able to ensure the vehicle was returned safely to Baldwin’s residence.
“When my car broke down, I thought I would be ultra late to the graduation ceremony,” Baldwin told KVUE. “It was the most inconvenient thing because it had never broken down before then.”
Despite the inconvenience, Baldwin said he was still able to arrive on time even though he was the last student to get in line.
“Officer Uribe and I were there working, but we have a couple thousand cops who would have done the exact thing,” added Cowden. “We were just fortunate to be able to have helped them and I think anyone would have done the same thing.”
To express the family’s gratitude, Baldwin and his mother ordered a special plaque to commemorate the officer’s efforts, which they presented to them on Wednesday at the Austin Police Department headquarters.
“We weren’t expecting that and were very appreciative,” said Cowden.
Johnson, an Army veteran who is now stationed in Saudi Arabia for the Department of Defense, also said she would be sending the officers more gifts from overseas.
“This experience opened my eyes more on what the police really do,” said Baldwin. “Meeting Cowden and Uribe was a great pleasure and honor, and I’ll remember them for a lifetime for helping me on one of the most important days of my life.”
Baldwin, a government major from Fort Irwin, California, received his bachelor’s degree on May 19. He plans to attend law school next fall with aspirations to become a corporate lawyer specializing in transactional work.
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