Fullerton PD honors resident whose swift action saved 20-month-old baby’s life

By Lou Ponsi

Editor’s note: The Fullerton Police Department, at its monthly crime strategy meetings, honors citizens who have performed extraordinary acts in the service of public safety. On Feb. 8, the FPD recognized Fullerton resident Leonard Acosta for taking swift action in saving the life of a 20-month-old boy.

The baby was “completely blue and completely lifeless in her arms.”

The indelible image is what stood out the most to Leonard Acosta as he looked through the peephole of his front door to see who’d been knocking and ringing the doorbell of his Fullerton home at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 30.

Acosta, his wife, Yolanda, 46, and the couple’s 22-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter relocated to Fullerton from La Mirada in October.

At first, Acosta, 45, wasn’t sure who would be knocking on a Monday morning, but then he recognized the woman holding the baby as his neighbor.

“As soon as he opened the door, I heard a woman yell, ‘Help me,’” said Yolanda, who was upstairs.

The woman was holding her 20-month-old grandson, who, Acosta quickly learned, had accidentally fallen in her pool and was unconscious for an unknown length of time.

FPD photo

Fullerton Police Chief David Hinig with Acosta. FPD photo

“I immediately started asking questions and yelled to my wife to call 911,” Acosta said.

He lay the baby on a wooden bench in the foyer and began doing CPR, recalling the procedure from years ago, when his son was a young child.

As Acosta continued performing chest compressions, the baby eventually began taking short breaths and was starting to breathe on his own.

“It was a horrible situation,” Yolanda said.

He turned the baby on his side and patted him on the back.

“You could see the color coming back in his face,” Acosta said. “It probably took over two minutes to revive him… It felt like hours.”

The Fullerton Police arrived and then the paramedics, who scooped up the baby and rushed to the hospital.

Acosta went to work, but his nerves were still rattled and concerns lingered.

“‘Did I revive him quick enough? Is he going to have brain damage?’” he wondered.

When Acosta got home that evening, he was assured by a neighbor, who is an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy and had spoken to the baby’s grandmother, that the baby was doing well.

Acosta wanted to see for himself, so he visited the baby’s grandmother the next day.

She showed him photos of the baby jumping up and down in his crib.

Afterwards, Acosta found out the baby had made a full recovery.

“He reacted fast, and thank God it was a good outcome,” Yolanda said.

The doctor who treated the baby told his grandmother that he would have had permanent brain damage if Acosta hadn’t acted so quickly.

“You don’t have to be a police officer to be in the right place at the right time and do the right thing,” said FPD Lt. Andrew Goodrich, when Acosta was awarded the Chief’s Commendation for his actions. “The actions of Mr. Acosta saved the baby’s life. No doubt about it.”