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Off-duty officer comes to aid of choking child

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A Friday night out at a high school football game at the Wool Bowl turned into something much more serious for one family when their young son began choking on a snack and couldn’t breathe.

Fortunately for the boy and his parents, there was an off-duty Roswell police officer sitting in the stands nearby who was able to take action to rescue the youngster from a potentially life-threatening situation.

When 4-year-old Cason Salyards began choking on a fruit roll-up, his parents, Kristen and Jeff Salyards, experienced the panic and fear that so many parents would feel when a sudden medical emergency strikes their child. “You always think you’ll be the calm parent,” says Kristen, “but I was panicking.”

Tan Nguyen, a patrol officer who has been a member of the Roswell Police Department for a little more than four years, was off duty and attending the Goddard High School football game with his girlfriend when he became aware of the little boy in distress. Tan immediately made his way to the boy and let his mind fall back on his training.

“What do I need to do? What’s going on with him?” Tan describes himself thinking as he moved into action, taking young Cason from Kristen’s arms.

Tan held the boy on his lap and administered back blows, dislodging the food stuck in Cason’s throat so the boy could spit it out.

“He went into action quickly and didn’t hesitate at all,” recalls Kristen. She notes that although she and her family did not know Tan and were unaware he was a police officer since he was off duty and not in uniform, “I could tell it was someone who knew what they were doing.”

Tan says it is important in high-stress situations such as that to “think tactically” and operate in a somewhat “robotic” manner, trying to put the emotion — and potential panic — aside in order to be effective and efficient in dealing with the matter at hand.

However, he says, “I wasn’t calm on the inside, but I tried to remain calm (in appearance).”

Kristen says she and husband Jeff are grateful for Tan “taking over and taking care of my son.” She adds her family is “very grateful to all our first-responders and how they take care of our community so selflessly.”