RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Decades of training and experience boiled down to a few frantic minutes during a nail-biting ocean rescue to save the lives of two people.
Officer Joseph Hoffman of the Riviera Beach Police Department has a career in law enforcement spanning over two decades.
“I think the longer you work in community, the more you fall in love with it,” Hoffman said. “The citizens and whatnot, you feel almost like they’re your kids.”
Building community for the past two years has been part of his personal duties while on beach patrol with the Riviera Beach Police Department.
But it’s not always all fun, sun, and sand. It certainly wasn’t on June 6 of last year.
“I just thank God I happened to be there,” Hoffman said. “What are the odds I happened to be driving by when that 12-year-old kid was drowning out there.”
Right place, right time, and not a moment’s hesitation.
“I basically stripped down to my skivvies and jumped in there and swam out and got the kid,” Hoffman said.
The officer turned lifeguard in the blink of an eye to save a 12-year-old fighting for his life in a rip current, 150 yards from shore.
“He was flailing and going under and, I mean, it was that close,” Hoffman said.
Watch Officer Hoffman’s heroic story:
Riviera Beach police officer hailed a hero following rip current rescue
The stakes doubled after Hoffman observed a good Samaritan dive in after the child and also got swept up.
“He got to the kid before me and the kid climbed on top of him and pushed him under. Because they’re panicked, you know? They’re trying to survive,” Hoffman said.
Armed with only a buoy and a fighting spirit, Hoffman somehow was able to get both the child and good Samaritan to shore and into the care of paramedics and lifeguards.
“The kid was coughing up saltwater and they transported him to St. Mary’s (Medical Center), I believe,” Hoffman said.
With a humble heart, Hoffman said he was just doing his job.
“It’s what you do as a decent human being,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think it makes anyone a hero at all.”
But others, including many of you at home and behind the badge, disagree, calling Hoffman’s lifesaving actions honorable and unselfish.
Hoffman on Friday was recognized for his heroism during the 2022 Law Enforcement Officers Awards luncheon at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. WPTV is proud sponsor of the event.