ESCONDIDO, Calif. — As a child, Alejandro Nazario spent a lot of his time at an Escondido Starbucks. When it closed for the day, he would move across the street to Jack-in-the-Box.
That was his daily routine for almost two years. He was just 12 years old and homeless.
“I just sat there doing nothing, pretty much my shelter,” Nazario told FOX 5.
It’s a routine that caught the attention of employees at the coffeeshop, who expressed their concern to Escondido police Officer John Larson.
“They started noticing a young boy that would hang out at the store all day,” Larson said. “They’d provide him some food, some drinks, and then as they closed down, they noticed he’d go across the street to Jack-in-the-Box.”
One day in 2018, Larson and Nazario crossed paths for a conversation at the Jack-in-the-Box that the teen says changed his life. It was then that Larson learned about the boy’s situation.
“I just wanted to make sure he was in a safe place,” he said.
Larson drove Nazario to child welfare services. Confidentiality rules prevented him from keeping in touch, but that didn’t stop him from trying.
“I’d call every so often in hopes I’d kind of slip in there, get lucky and somebody would tell me something,” recalled the officer, “but all they would tell me is that he was OK, he was safe.”
Finally, in June, another member of the Escondido Police Department found Nazario. She shared the news with Larson.
“It just made me feel so good and proud of him,” Larson said.
Five years after they first met, Larson attended Nazario’s high school graduation.
“It felt very surreal since I didn’t really see myself graduating middle school or high school,” Nazario said.
“He took the cards that he was dealt and he turned his life into something so positive and he’s doing so well for himself,” Larson said.
With his foster family and Larson by his side, Nazario no longer feels alone.
“It changed my whole course of life. I got introduced to what a family is, what a home is, an education,” he said. “I owe Officer Larson a lot. I hope I stay in contact with him, especially if he could see me when I graduate college.”