Industrial Way in the city of Benicia in Northern California is – as the name suggests – an industrial area. The road is lined with trucking companies, factories, and warehouses. That’s why when Cpl. Kirk Keffer spotted a lone teenager walking down the road late at night one Saturday he was curious.
“Usually in the industrial area, there’s no foot traffic,” he said, “so it was kind of weird to see someone walking around on foot.”
He pulled his patrol car over to the side of the road near the teen and called out to him, asking if he was okay and what he was doing out by himself in that area so late at night.
The lone pedestrian turned out to be 18-year-old Jourdan Duncan, and he was pretty nervous when the patrol car pulled up next to him.
“I was absolutely nervous,” he said. “I thought, okay, um, did I do anything wrong? Is he going to put me in cuffs? I didn’t do anything bad.”
What Duncan told Keffer next, though, left the officer completely stunned.
He said he had just gotten off his job on a packaging line – where he worked from 3 p.m. to midnight – and was walking back to his parent’s home in Vallejo.
“Vallejo? That’s like seven miles away,” Keffer replied.
He offered to give the teen a ride home, and on the way began to ask Duncan more questions.
He learned that Duncan had just graduated from high school the year before and was working to save money for college. His real dream, though, was to be an officer with the California Highway Patrol, as some of his relatives had been in law enforcement and he wanted to follow in their footsteps.
When Duncan first started the job he had a car to get him back in forth, but the timing belt and an engine valve had broken. He got rides from friends and co-workers for a little while, but didn’t want to burden them, so he decided he would just make the 2 hour and 15 minute walk himself.
“I didn’t want to always call somebody and be like, ‘Hey, can you pick me up?’ ” he said. “That would have took a lot of people’s time.”
He told Keffer that his parents didn’t even know he had been walking to work.
Keffer was impressed with the teen’s tenacity.
“I was just like, wow, Jourdan, that’s really impressive, your dedication and your hard work,” he said, joking that most people won’t even walk to the store. “At age 18, that’s a good work ethic to have, and I said, you know, I admire that. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Keffer dropped Duncan off at home, but he couldn’t get the determined teen out of his head. When he returned to the police department he told his shift supervisor – who is also a board member of the Benicia Police Officers’ Association – about his interaction with Duncan.
“So I hit him up and say, ‘I just had this contact with this young man. He’s walking five hours a day, and I think it should be rewarded,'” Keffer said. “What if we help him out?”
They emailed the rest of the board and asked if they could get approval to buy the teen a bike.
Keffer said it was one of the fastest votes they’ve ever taken – within one hour enough board members had written back in agreement, so the next day Keffer went to a local bike shop and told them Duncan’s story.
The shop owner, Greg Andrade, was so touched by the story that he donated a lighting system, brake light, and helmet to go along with the $500 mountain bike.
Then Keffer got in contact with Duncan’s boss and found out when Duncan was next scheduled to work so they could surprise him.
On Monday night Duncan’s supervisor told him he needed to go outside. When the teen saw a bunch of policemen waiting outside for him he got nervous, but they quickly assured him he was not in trouble.
“‘We have something for you,’” they told him, bringing the bike out. “This is your bike.”
“We would like to acknowledge your hard work and dedication for what you do and setting the example for kids your age,” they told him. “Hopefully this’ll make your trip easier.”
Duncan couldn’t believe it! He couldn’t believe that he was getting all of this attention just for walking.
“The walk isn’t hard,” he said. “It’s like a challenge. To me, it was like a challenge to see if I was willing to do whatever it takes to get to work.”
But Keffer said that’s exactly why he wanted to help the teen.
The officer and Duncan have kept in touch, and Keffer has even offered to take Duncan on a ride-along so he can see what being a police officer is really all about.
“It’s something I’ve been interested in since high school,” Duncan said. “A lot of my family members, they’re in law enforcement. It’s like, what they do and, due to a lot of people thinking that there are bad cops out there, I want to prove that all cops aren’t bad — which is true, due to what just happened to me.”
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