It seems like police are only in the news these days for the things they do wrong. So let's stop for a moment and celebrate the retirement of a cop who did something remarkable.
Kevin Balancier retired from the New Orleans Police Department this week, after spending his final years in the 4th District in Algiers.
But it was something he did in 1994 that makes him special.
One day in November, he responded to a 911 call and found 12-year-old Dwayne Carter Jr., who had fired a bullet through his chest.
The boy had left school early on report card day, bought lunch from Burger King, and found a 9 mm pistol left in his home the previous day.
After shooting himself, he called 911 and crawled to the front door to await help.
Balancier was the second cop on the scene. There was no ambulance available, so Balancier and officer Robert Hoobler charged off in a police cruiser to the nearest hospital they could think of: Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish.
Hoobler cradled the boy across his lap “like a little baby” in the back seat, and Balancier drove.
Hoobler put the young boy on a gurney before nurses and doctors wheeled him away — and ultimately saved his life.
Years later, the officers remembered how a nurse approached them and said: “If y’all had waited for (an ambulance) … he would have died. You saved that kid’s life.”
It turns out their heroism and their gift for improvisation changed the course of New Orleans music history.
For the young man they saved that day grew up to be Lil Wayne, the superstar rapper.
The little kid who was saved by the cops and the doctors and the nurses has since sold more than 120 million records worldwide, won five Grammy Awards and is the chief executive officer of Young Money Entertainment.
Lil Wayne has remembered the officers who saved his life. While accepting a BET Hip-Hop Award in 2018, he said he had recently spoken to Hoobler and had never forgotten how the officer “refused to let (him) die.”
“He made sure I made it,” Lil Wayne said.
Over the years, Lil Wayne came to describe the wounding not as an accident but as a suicide attempt.
On an album he released in 2018, he sang: “I aimed where my heart was pounding. I shot it, and I woke up with blood around me. It’s mine, I didn’t die, but as I was dying, God came to my side and we talked about it. He sold me another life and he made me a prophet.”
At a time when suicide has been increasing, and guns are all too often left out in homes where children can reach them, it is a lesson for today's world as well.
The music world has celebrated Lil Wayne for years.
This week, let's celebrate the cop who helped save his life.
“This job — every day is something new, and it’s an exciting job that I love,” Balancier said in a video published by the NOPD two days after the retirement ceremony. “And I’ll love (it) to my dying day.”