Many consider going into law enforcement without ever having faced a life-or-death situation.
Antonio Ballesteros, 17, has already been there.
The Columbia High School senior was walking to his car in the parking lot behind the Nampa school one afternoon last December when he heard a girl scream for help.
Ballesteros, who is in the third year of a program for students interested in careers in law enforcement, had not planned on saving a life that day.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
But he did just that – and the Nampa Police Department last week awarded him its highest honor for civilians, the Medal of Merit. He was praised for his brave, selfless actions in stopping a knife attack on a fellow student.
“One more blow, and you never know where that knife would have landed,” School Resource Officer Brad Workman said.
Ballesteros, a wiry, soft-spoken teenager who plays striker on an indoor soccer team, was headed home to eat after school on Dec. 4 when he encountered the violent attack.
“I saw one of the victim’s friends run by,” he recalled Friday during an interview with the Statesman.
Then he saw a girl on the ground. A boy was on top of her, wielding what appeared to be a pocket knife.
He was stabbing her.
“I just ran towards them, that was my first instinct, to go help. I didn’t really think too much about it,” Ballesteros said. “I grabbed his arm and his wrist, and threw him on the ground. I got the knife and threw it farther away.”
Ballesteros said he learned tactics for disarming someone in his law enforcement class. The classes cover almost everything in the police academy, Workman said.
Ballesteros said the boy with the knife didn’t struggle with him once he was disarmed. Seeing that the girl was bleeding from knife wounds, he urged her to go into the school for medical aid.
By that point, a teacher and others had run to the parking lot to help. The teacher called 911. Workman and another officer at the site responded immediately.
Wyatt Weist, a 17-year-old Columbia High student, was charged with attempted murder in connection with the attack on his ex-girlfriend. Weist told a detective that he intended to kill the girl, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The girl had broken up with Weist a couple of months earlier. She was hospitalized for numerous stab wounds to her chest, abdomen and arms.
Weist’s pretrial hearing is 1:30 p.m. March 19, and a jury trial has been set for 9 a.m. May 1 at the Canyon County Courthouse in Caldwell.
Ballesteros wasn’t physically hurt in the Dec. 4 attack, but he said he was in a bit of a daze in the hours after the incident. He had some flashbacks the next day. He doesn’t feel like he has any symptoms of post-traumatic stress, though he has found himself occasionally thinking, “I actually did that?”
His mom had scolded him for not arriving home on time that day and for not answering his phone when she called to check on him. She was full of pride when she heard the story of his heroics – and was relieved that he was OK.
“I’m doing great,” the teen said Friday, and noted that he’s looking forward to graduating and getting a job.
He’s been considering careers in medicine and law enforcement, but the Dec. 4 incident has changed the way he views police work.
“When it comes to situations like this, I’ve changed my mind towards it,” Ballesteros said. “When a situation like that happens, more serious injuries could come from it. I could possibly be injured.”
It also changed his worldview.
“It’s just opened my eyes on how the world actually is” – in particular how violent it is, he said.