A pizza deliveryman was honored by a Kentucky police department for stopping suspected child abuse after he called 911 to report seeing a naked girl in a man's motel room where he was dropping off food.
The call led to the arrest of Justin Elam, 36, who was charged with multiple counts of rape and sexual abuse after officers with the Lexington Police Department found two girls under the age of 12 naked in the motel room, police spokesperson Brenna Angel told NBC News.
On Tuesday night, during the police department's annual awards banquet, Papa John's pizza deliveryman, Mark Buede, was recognized for his effort with a public service medal.
The three officers who investigated the case against Elam were also honored.
The incident unfolded in November 2018 when Buede was delivering food to the Catalina Motel in Lexington. When Elam opened the door, Buede told the Lexington Herald Leader he saw "a little girl that didn't have any clothes on" lying on a bed.
Buede said he went back to his car and told his daughter — who was riding with him after finishing a shift at work — what he saw. They decided to call 911.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Buede told the outlet. “I just knew it wasn’t right.”
When officers arrived at the motel, they found the two girls "nude in the room," Angel said. An investigation revealed that Elam had been abusing the girls.
Angel said the incident was an "unusual situation," but one the department would not have known about if it wasn't for Buede calling police.
"The department is incredibly grateful and proud of the people who work every day to keep Lexington safe!" the Lexington Police Department tweeted.
Papa John's said Buede has been an employee at its store in Lexington for over four years.
"We are so thankful for team members like Mark Buede - he chose to take action and it made a difference. We are proud to have him in the Papa John's family," a spokesperson said Thursday.
Elam remains in custody at the Fayette County Detention Center. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 28, court records show.