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Son of fallen IMPD Officer Breann Leath makes new friend

Three-year-old Zayn Bartolome struck a special bond with Carmel Police Ofc. Shelby Jellison during a chance meeting last month.

CARMEL, Ind. — He's a typical three-year-old, full of energy and full of questions.

Sometimes, though, the questions Zayn Bartolome asks his dad, Zeb, have no easy answers.

That's because most of them are about Zayn's mom, fallen IMPD Ofc. Breann Leath, killed while responding to a domestic violence call in March.

"In the beginning, I'd say the first month, he would really question where she was," said Zeb.

Lately, though, that's changed.

"He does understand where mommy is now and why mommy can't be here," Zeb explained.                             

That doesn't stop Zayn from wanting to FaceTime with his mom, just like they did the afternoon she died.

"The last time he talked to her, they were laughing, talking, giggling and he gave her kisses, just like he usually does and hung up the phone. And that was the last time he seen her was on FaceTime," Zeb recalled.

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So when Zayn sees a police car go by, he gets excited.

"He sees lights. He hears sirens. He's always pointing, 'Hey mommy! That's mommy! There's a police officer!" Zeb said, explaining his son's reaction.

That's why, when Zayn spotted Carmel Police Ofc. Shelby Jellison in uniform last week in a local Smoothie King, he wanted to talk with her.

"Taps me on my leg. 'Hey, dad. There's a police officer,'" Zeb said Zayn told him. "I said, 'Yeah. That is a police officer.' He was, like, 'Can I say hi?'"

"I said, 'Yeah. Go tell her hi.'"

"Zayn had walked up to me and tapped on my leg and said his mom was a police officer," Jellison recalled.

"I said, 'Oh, really?  Do you know where your mom works?'" Jellison asked Zayn. "And he goes, 'From above, from up there.'"

Jellison said she didn't understand yet who Zayn was or what he was trying to tell her.

"I asked him from where? And he goes, from up there. She's watching me," she said.

When Jellison turned to Zayn's dad, she got an answer she wasn't expecting.

"He said, 'His mom was Ofc. Breann Leath,'" Jellison said Zeb told her.

That's when it hit Jellison, standing in front of her was the little boy whose mom Jellison had thought about so many times since she was killed.

"She has always been on my mind," said Jellison.

Like Ofc. Leath, Jellison also became a police officer like her dad and, like Zayn, Jellison knows what it's like to lose your mom before it's really time.

"I really do think I was placed in that position for a reason. Both of our mothers wanted us to come together," said Jellison.

The moment was so memorable, Zayn got a picture with his new friend.

"That photo, I look at it every morning, especially every day that I start my shift," said Jellison, who, with his dad's permission, shared the story of meeting Zayn on social media.

Yesterday afternoon before my shift started, I was blessed with one of the most memorable/humbling moments I'll ever experience in my career. This sweet boy in this picture is Zayn. I met Zayn and...

The post has now been shared and viewed thousands of times.

"I know God put me there in a place with Zayn for a reason," she said.

That reason, Jellison hopes, is to stay in Zayn's life however and whenever he needs her.

"I'm just trying to do my best as a police officer and as a human being to be there for Zayn as much as I can," Jellison explained.

Zayn's dad, Zeb, is thankful for the support. He's got a big job ahead as his son grows up.

"I gotta try my hardest every single day to make sure he understands that his mamma loves him," said Zeb.

Zayn's family has started a GoFundMe account to help with his future plans as he gets older.

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