Just when they needed it most, this Massachusetts police officer exercised compassion for two women caught shoplifting five days before Christmas. They got a gift card from the kind officer. Here is the story:
Somerset Police Officer Matt Lima responded to a call from a Stop & Shop grocery store on December 30 regarding a theft incident.
Store security reported that the suspects didn’t scan everything they put in their bags at the self-checkout kiosks. When he printed out their transaction receipt, he noticed that several items they took weren’t there.
The women, who were shopping with two young children, were stopped as they left the store and was asked to return inside.
Lima pulled one of the adults aside so they can talk about what happened out of the kids’ earshot. In the meantime, store employees distracted the youngsters so they wouldn’t figure out what was going on.
The police officer intently listened to the woman’s statement, and her reason broke his heart.
“The woman I talked to, she explained she was working, but the mother of the children was not working and had some other family issues going on and that what she had taken was Christmas dinner for the kids,” Lima told WJAR.
Her story struck a chord with Lima, who had two girls around the same age as the two kids the women were with.
Lima checked their receipt to verify if her story was accurate, and he saw that they were really just buying food.
“There was nothing else on there like health and beauty items, shampoo, anything like that. It was all food,” the officer said.
“Obviously, this family was in need and I can’t imagine having to make the decision to go to Stop & Shop and just only pay for what I can afford — or do I go there and try to take things for Christmas dinner for the kids?” he added.
Instead of pressing charges, the good officer just served them “Notice Not To Trespass” forms.
“They were very thankful, they were kind of shocked,” he recalled. “I’m sure a lot of people in that same situation would be thinking that there was going to be a different outcome, and maybe they would be arrested or have to go to court.”
His colleagues were quick to commend his actions and shared the incident on their official website.
“I would like to personally commend Officer Lima for his actions,” Chief George McNeil of the Somerset Police Department said. “His actions exemplify what it means to protect and serve the members of our community. When faced with a difficult situation in which a family was trying to provide a meal for their kids, he made the generous decision to not press charges and instead ensured that they would have a Christmas dinner they could enjoy.”
Lima’s kindness didn’t end there. When the store employees informed him that all the women’s unpaid items were returned to the shelves, he bought them a $250 gift card to buy groceries for their Christmas dinner the right way at another Stop & Shop branch.
“I bought the gift card close in value to what would’ve been taken,” said Lima. “I just did what I felt was right. It’s not about me, I just tried to put myself in that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”
Although this officer is a big believer of following the law, he decided to cut them a break knowing that the punishment they’d get for what they did won’t fit the crime. He understands that people are sometimes driven to commit crimes like this because of a lack of choice and not necessarily out of ill intent.
Just in time for the holidays, Officer Lima showed us all the true meaning of practicing compassion towards people in need.