SCHENECTADY – On the third day of his life, Connor Hayhurst went into cardiac arrest. At six days old, Hayhurst underwent his first open-heart surgery.
“I was broken. There’s no other way to say it,” said Breanna Hayhurst, Connor’s mother. “Complete and total shock.”
Connor Hayhurst, who turns 15 Wednesday, was born with a very rare heart defect called truncus arteriosus. With that diagnosis came DiGeorge syndrome, a chromosomal deletion that means Connor has no active immune system. Hayhurst is also on the autism spectrum.
Hayhurst, from Ballston Spa, has to have weekly transfusions for the rest of his life. He’s also had to undergo three open heart surgeries to correct his heart defect.
Perhaps dealing with so much medical care made solving crime seem simple for Hayhurst Tuesday.
With the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Hayhurst became an honorary member of the Schenectady Police Department, fulfilling a lifelong dream that began when he was a young boy drawn to the sirens and flashing lights of patrol cars. Mayor Gary McCarthy also declared Tuesday “Connor Hayhurst Day” in the city of Schenectady.
Wearing a navy blue SPD uniform, Hayhurst worked alongside Sgt. Jeffrey McCutcheon to track down the suspect in a fictional stolen artwork case.
Connor Hayhurst’s Wish (7 photos)
Hayhurst’s wish took a page from the story of the Make-A-Wish foundation’s founding. The inspiration for Make-A-Wish came in 1980, when Christopher James Greicius, an energetic 7-year-old boy battling leukemia, had a chance to fulfill his dream of being a Phoenix police officer.
Make-A-Wish Northeast New York, part of the larger organization that grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses, serves the 15 counties comprising the 518 and 838 area codes, and the chapter grants 90 to 100 wishes in a normal year, granting more than 2,000 wishes since 1987. This year, which has been hampered by some pandemic restrictions, the organization will grant roughly 70 wishes, according to Mark McGuire, director of Marketing and Communications for Make-A-Wish Northeast New York.
Just after 10 a.m., Hayhurst and McCutcheon responded – full lights and sirens – to a call of stolen artwork at Union College. A drawing of a ship had been taken off the wall at Nott Memorial. Hayhurst tracked footprints and found part of a shirt that may have belonged to the suspect. Then Hayhurst and McCutcheon went on patrol and located someone wearing the same-patterned torn shirt trying to sell the artwork in a parking lot on Erie Boulevard.
“Things happened very quickly,” McCutcheon said, deadpanning. “We pulled up, he immediately spotted the suspect, he compared the evidence of his ripped shirt, and we took (the suspect) into custody.”
McCutcheon said the suspect didn’t resist arrest.
“And (Hayhurst) even gave him a piece of advice at the end. He said, ‘crime doesn’t pay.’”
Later, Hayhurst rode in a police helicopter, circling Union College before landing on the rugby field shortly after 2 p.m. and delivering the stolen artwork to Union College President David Harris.
Breanna Hayhurst, 39, said the day was extra special, because Hayhurst’s wish was delayed a year due to the pandemic. In fact, Hayhurst’s day on the force was nearly set for this time last year, until COVID-19 numbers ticked up, making it too much of a risk for Hayhurst, who lacks a properly functioning immune system. This year, the wish finally came to fruition.
“I can’t put into words how incredible it was to be able to see this wish happen,” Breanna Hayhurst said at Schenectady City Hall, the day wrapped. “This day means the world to me to see my son get his wish to be a police officer come true. It’s very momentous.”
McCutcheon, who has been on the force nearly 15 years, said it was a special day for him, too.
“Everyone always asks why do you want to be a police officer, and the quick, generic response is because you want to help people. Well, that’s true. It’s not just a generic response. And those feelings that we all felt today makes everything we have to deal with as a police officer like 10 times worth it,” he said.
McCutcheon said Hayhurst was a worthy partner.
“He was very bright and picked it up quicker than some people that we’ve had for 10 or 12 years,” McCutcheon said with a laugh. “How could someone that has never been in a police car and never been in a police situation pick it up so quickly? He was very insightful. Towards the end, after we apprehended the suspect and put them in custody, (Hayhurst) said, ‘are we going to tow the car?’ I was actually very shocked, because that’s what we would have done in that situation.”
So maybe Hayhurst’s days on duty aren’t over.
“While your wish was to be an officer for a day, you’re now part of our family,” said Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford. “You’re going to forever be welcomed by our police department. It’s not police officer for a day, it’s now you’re a police officer for life.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.