MILTON — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody made a special trip to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office to personally present the Back The Blue award to deputies involved in the rescue of 3-year-old Aedric Huges on Sept. 15.
"Aedric, high five ... high five, thank you," Moody said to the little boy before she addressed those in attendance. "This has to be one of the best Back The Blue awards yet."
Moody said this was the first time the award has been presented to deputies with four legs. Zinc and Copper, the sheriff's bloodhounds, and their handlers Deputies Robert Lenzo and Josh Chandler were being recognized for finding the boy just 20 minutes after arriving at the scene.
Moody started the Back The Blue campaign when she became Attorney General for the state in January of this year. The award highlights law enforcement officers, citizens and organizations taking extraordinary steps to forge positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Supporting law enforcement is a top priority for Moody and the mission of Back the Blue is to commend Florida’s brave law enforcement and Floridians who back them.
Although Huges is autistic and has a congenital heart defect, he managed to unlock a door at his grandparent's house and walked into the woods. His grandmother, Gina Lee, was watching him for the day and had gone to the bathroom when Huges got out for what Lee said was his "little adventure."
Lee immediately contacted the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office. A search party formed and started searching the woods for the little boy. About two and a half hours later, there was no sign of Huges who is also non-verbal.
Those in command decided to call in the K-9 units.
Lenzo said he got a knot in his stomach when he heard the original call go out over the radio. He gets that feeling whenever there is a child involved.
"I was just waiting for them to call us out," Lenzo said, adding that the dogs are trained well and he knew they could find the missing boy.
Once the K-9 units were dispatched to the area, the handlers quickly identified the negative and positive areas to search. They do this by looking for tracks.
They brought out Zinc and Copper and within 20 minutes, they had found Huges in very thick overgrown woods. Although Zinc and Copper got to Huges, the handlers had to get machetes to cut through the brush and woods to get him out.
Chandler reached Huges first and picked him up. Huges started crying so Lenzo took him and lead him out of the woods.
"He was still crying, but he had a tight grip on my neck," Lenzo said.