BPD at John Muir
Berkeley police officers Jessica Nabozny and Stephen Burcham give high-fives to fifth grader Brandon Coleman for his success in helping find a missing man with dementia in Berkeley on Jan. 14, while his mother Niema looks on. Photo: Mark Coplan

A fifth grader at John Muir Elementary School in Berkeley was honored in his classroom yesterday by the Berkeley police  for his “eagle eye and his quick, decisive response” in helping search teams find a missing senior citizen with dementia last week.

Sixty-one-year-old Monte Winterhalter went missing from a house on Tunnel Road near Domingo Avenue in Berkeley on the morning of Tuesday Jan. 14. He had only recently moved to the area and suffers from dementia. Winterhalter was found in the evening of the same day by Brandon Coleman and his mother, Niema Coleman, who spotted him in the area of Broadway and Monroe Street in Oakland.

Berkeley police officer Stephen Burcham presents 10-year-old Brandon Coleman with a certificate. Photo: Mark Coplan

Police had dispatched a dozen officers, police dogs and a helicopter, and alerted the media, to try to find the missing man. But it was a crime alert, via the Oakland Police Department, that was read by Niema Coleman on her phone while waiting for her son to come out of a music class that proved effective. Coleman looked up after scanning it and saw a man walking towards her who strongly resembled the photo of Winterhalter on the bulletin.

She was unsure, however, that it was him, and showed Brandon the email when he came out of the class, saying, “That man looks like the guy, but that’s just not very likely.”

Brandon, who is described by friends and family as an “eagle eye” because of his keen observation skills,  said, “Mom, that is the guy,” and encouraged her to approach him. She asked the man if he was Monte Winterhalter and he said no. On reporting this back to Brandon he said: “Mom that is him. Just call the police now.”

Muir TV
Brandon Coleman is interviewed by a local TV channel at John Muir Elementary School. Photo: Mark Coplan

The Berkeley police dispatcher directed the mother and son to follow the man and keep him in sight, and Niema Coleman relayed cross streets to BPD until officers arrived and confirmed that this was Winterhalter.

In the John Muir classroom yesterday morning in front of all his classmates, Berkeley police officers Stephen Burcham Burcham and Jessica Nabozny presented Brandon with a certificate and thanked Brandon for his quick action. They then spoke to the students about the importance of paying attention to their surroundings and notifying an adult whenever they see anything that they think might be important and should be reported.

Brandon was later interviewed by TV crew while his fellow students looked on.

Watch a video of the Berkeley Police honoring Brandon Coleman at John Muir Elementary School.

Missing man with dementia found in Oakland  (01.14.14)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...