Helen Johnson, her two daughters, her niece and two grandchildren hadn’t eaten in days when they made their way to the Dollar General in Tarrant, Alabama, last Saturday.
Her family’s welfare stipend had gotten lost in the mail, and her disability check was still days away from arrival. Desperate to feed her family, Johnson made the difficult choice to shoplift a dozen eggs to get them through their rough patch. Unfortunately, she was halfway through stuffing her contraband into her pockets when a store clerk caught her and called the police.
What happened next surprised everyone.
Instead of arresting the woman, police officer William Stacy decided to show the grandmother some holiday kindness by not only letting her go but also paying for her groceries.
Johnson later told the Birmingham News:
I was just getting eggs and now that’s saved my life. I’ve never been more grateful. I’m so overwhelmed with the goodness of these people. Of course when I put [the eggs] in my jacket pocket they broke. I’m not a good thief at all.
A video of the heartwarming moment captures Johnson and Officer Stacy hugging in the parking lot as he hands her the bag of food.
I was in Tarrant city today and a lady was caught red handed stealing eggs …Instead of the police taking her to jail he bought the items. she was stealing an gave them to her..#feelgoodstoryoftheday…….
Posted by Robert Tripp on Saturday, December 6, 2014
“She started crying, she got very emotional and was very apologetic,” Stacy said. “She tried to give me the money she had on her, $1.25.”
When asked what led to his choice to be a Good Samaritan, he admits, “Sometimes the best route is to not arrest. I hope she won’t do it again. I pray she doesn’t, and I don’t think she will.”
The short video, posted on Facebook by Robert (Dollar) Tripp, has now gone viral, receiving over 524,000 views and thousands of comments and “likes.”
In response to all the publicity, officers made a visit to Johnson’s home to help coordinate the offers of food and clothing that have poured in – and have also signed her up for the Tarrant Toy Drive for her children.
To donate or contribute to Johnson or the police department’s efforts to help others in need during the holidays, call 205-849-2811.
Follow Blue Telusma on Twitter @bluecentric.