MORGAN HILL, Calif. - On Thursday, a little girl battling a difficult medical diagnosis got a lift to her spirit. Around 9 a.m., Aubrey Silva arrived to temporarily join the team at the Santa Clara County Justice Training Center.
The youngster was outfitted with a sheriff’s deputy tactical vest and camera, which was complimented by a blue tiara and sunglasses. She lent her talents to find a faux suspect hiding somewhere on the grounds.
"I liked it a lot… I’m happy people care about me," Aubrey said.
Aubrey’s journey to work with law enforcement began with a chance encounter in 2019, watching the sheriff’s K9 unit at work.
"We came into today thinking it was just part of a training exercise. And here we are in tears," said her mother, Katheryn Silva.
The story behind those tears is that Aubrey has suffered from medical complications, including a head tumor that was removed, but has since regrown. The mass is affecting vision in one of her eyes.
Aubrey undergoes surgery July 15, which will mark her 19th surgery in just eight years of life.
"Going through surgery for a tumor that has regrown is not easy. It’s not an easy thing at all," said Silva.
Doctors believe that a positive mind could equal a positive outcome, so they want Aubrey in a good emotional place before surgery.
That’s where the sheriff’s K9 unit comes in. Knowing of the child’s connection with the four-legged sleuths, team members set up Thursday’s mock investigation, pursuit and capture.
"She was her own detective. She solved a case to find a missing dress and slippers. And at the end of the day, she caught the bad guy," said one deputy. "It’s all about the community, how we can best serve our community."
With the alleged thief behind bars, there was one more jolt to fill Aubrey with positivity before facing surgery: team members surprised Aubrey and her mom with tickets to an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland.
"I can see all my favorite Disney princesses… Tiana," Aubrey said with a smile.
"At the end of the day, Aubrey and her family deserve this," said a participating deputy. "And so I’m glad we were able to pull this together."
Silva believes the work by the sheriff’s office will pay dividends for the surgery, and going forward.
"This is definitely going to be lightening the load of everything. Looking forward to something after the fact," she said.
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv.