By Bethany Freudenthal
Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.
MESILLA — A Mesilla marshal is being praised for going above and beyond to help return a tricycle to a special-needs student, even lending a helping hand on the same day he responded to the tragic shootings on Interstate 10.
The Holguin family says Sgt. Benjamin “Buckaroo” Azcarate came to their rescue following the disappearance of the trike, made especially for 14-year-old Grace.
The trike is red and white with a bucket seat. On the back of the trike, there’s a white basket for her to carry her treasures in — and a license plate bearing her name.
“The length of the bike from the seat to the petals is customized to the length of her legs,” said Grace’s mom, Andrea Holguin, “and the fact that her handlebars can move up and down and kind of swings out of the way (makes it easier for) her to get in and out.” The trike’s three wheels provide stability.
Grace Holguin, a Zia Middle School student, was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect. She has some balance problems and was recently diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. She’s also full of smiles and enjoys participating in activities with her family, friends and classmates.
Grace’s awesome trike gives her the freedom to join in.
The trike cost $1,200, but for the Holguins, it’s priceless.
“It’s really important for Grace to do something together with her family in a way we can all participate together and she feels safe and comfortable,” Andrea said.
On Jan. 30, the bulky, hard-to-store trike that was bolted to one of the pillars of their home’s carport went missing. Andrea said she and her husband, Omar, and the rest of the family were devastated.
“We called the police and everything before we even talked to (Grace) about it, and Omar told her immediately that we were going to replace it.”
Azcarate responded to the incident and advised the family to post about it on social media. Since the Holguins aren’t on social media, they received help from Deana Baker, from the Mesilla Park Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization.
Grace told her parents several times that she was worried about her trike after it went missing.
Days later, Azcarate showed up at the Holguins’ home holding a white envelope with Grace’s name written on it. The envelope was stuffed with cash donations that he’d been raising intending for it to go toward a new trike.
“This officer went above and beyond,” Andrea said. “He said he felt really bad about it and he just wanted to do something to make sure that she could have a bike that she could ride. It was great, because it’s been hard to connect with people lately. For everyone to rally around her and our family like that was amazing –just to have that connection (and know) that people cared.”
On Thursday, Feb. 4, the Holguins got a call from Baker who said a friend of hers saw Grace’s trike.
Andrea hopped in her car and went to meet the friend, Reid Elliot. He showed her a group of children playing with a tricycle — Grace’s trike.
The children told Andrea that their mom bought it from someone off the street. She explained to them who the trike belonged to and why it was special.
Andrea said one of the boys was a student at Zia Middle School, though he didn’t know Grace. When he heard about Grace and why the trike was important to her, he wanted to return it.
“It’s just sad that they had to lose it too,” Andrea said. “They’re a family, too, that lost a bike.”
When Andrea confirmed that it was Grace’s trike, she called Azcarate to meet her, though he was dealing with something else at the moment.
Earlier that day, Omar Felix Cueva shot and killed New Mexico State Police officer Darian Jarrott during at traffic stop on I-10 near Deming before fleeing east. On the interstate near Las Cruces, Cueva was killed in a shootout with officers from several agencies.
Azcarate was one of the officers who responded to the incident, which closed the interstate for most of the day for an investigation. Still, Azcarate was able to eventually answer Andrea’s call and met her to retrieve Grace’s trike.
“We got it back and it was amazing,” Andrea said.
To Azcarate, Andrea says, “God bless you, every day that you’re out there protecting us. Thank you for your selflessness, and working so hard to keep yourself in good health — mentally and physically — and always prepared to defend us and protect us. Thanks for being a pillar of our community, and for reaching out to kids, all kids and special kids, and reminding us that you’re there and we can count on you.”
(c)2021 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)