One of the first things Master Cpl. Clifton Allen noticed when he walked into a Newark-area apartment on Wednesday was the little boy sitting on a bed.
As the 5-year-old cried, Allen, an 18-year veteran of New Castle County Police, looked him over.
The boy had a busted lip. He was wearing a bloodied T-shirt. But he also had a strange haircut.
As Allen talked to the boy while they waited for EMS to take him to the hospital, the 5-year-old told Allen that his guardians, a 26-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, had cut his hair to shame him.
It was only some of the abuse police said the two had inflicted upon the boy, but it stuck with Allen, and he knew he needed to do something.
Delaware Online/The News Journal is not naming the suspects to protect the identity of the 5-year-old.
That "something" ultimately resulted in a bald head for Allen, who agreed to let the boy cut his hair in exchange for the boy receiving a haircut of his own. Though it was a seemingly small gesture, Allen said it was worth it to see the boy's smile.
"The way I look at it, the smile on his face (was) priceless," Allen said. "At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
'We'll be twins'
Allen said the idea to cut the boy's hair didn't come to him until after EMS took the 5-year-old to the hospital on Wednesday.
"I went back to my patrol car and (the situation) just kept bothering me," Allen said. "I called my sergeant and I presented the idea about getting ahold of my barber and said, 'Maybe we can go wherever the boy is at and get his hair cut.'"
Allen's sergeant agreed. On Thursday, after receiving approval from the hospital and Delaware Division of Family Services caseworkers, Allen picked up his barber of 13 years and the two drove to the hospital.
"(The boy) was very apprehensive at first and wanted no part of it, which I can clearly understand because probably in his mind he relates a haircut to some form of shaming," Allen said. "Then it just popped into my head, 'Huh, I wonder if I sit next to him and get my hair cut, will he be willing to have his hair cut?"
As Allen sat by the boy, the two began talking, and Allen pitched his idea.
I'm like, 'If you let Mr. Chris cut your hair, how about when you're done, I'll sit in the chair and then you can cut my hair just like yours and we'll be twins," Allen said. "He was all for it."
Allen stayed true to his word. Once the boy's haircut was finished, Allen allowed him to take a pair of clippers to his head. He said it was absolutely worth it.
"Honestly, words can't describe (it)," Allen said. "Just the smile on his face compared to where I originally saw him sitting on that bed crying ... is priceless."
Allen said the situation wouldn't have been possible without his barber, whose business is now closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Because of that, the barber had free time, though Allen said even if he was working, he'd still have given the boy the haircut.
"He's always given back to the community himself," Allen said. "He goes out to certain neighborhoods and he provides free haircuts and things like that, so I knew as soon as I called him, he would be on board."
As for the boy, he's since been placed in a foster home. Allen said he hopes he can stay in contact with the boy, but that will be up to the boy's foster mom.
The two guardians were each charged with six counts of felony assault and arraigned in the Justice of the Peace Court. They're being held in prison in lieu of $90,000 cash bail.
Another person who lives in the apartment, a 22-year-old, was also arrested on several charges stemming from marijuana found in the apartment. He was released on $13,000 unsecured bail.
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