Police officer buys Christmas dinner for two women with children who were caught shoplifting
A Massachusetts police officer truly exemplified the Christmas spirit and is getting recognition for it after responding to a call about shoplifting at a Somerset supermarket. Two women with two children were caught shoplifting food. Somerset Police Officer Matthew Lima realized it must be out of necessity and bought them a gift card so they could buy Christmas dinner for the children.
The kind-hearted officer has two children approximately the age of the children involved. This happened just five days before Christmas. “The two children with the women reminded me of my kids, so I had to help them out,” Lima said in a Tuesday statement.
He responded to a call for help from the store. A local Stop & Shop grocery store reached out to the police after they claimed two women had been caught shoplifting. Lima says that shoplifting is one of the most common complaints that officers receive from retail stores.
“It can be people shoplifting any number of items, any value from $10 up to thousands of dollars,” Lima said. “You really don’t know what to expect until you get there.”
Loss and prevention at the store leveled charges against the two women who were shopping at the store with two children in their company. They were evidently only scanning a few of their items and bagging all of them at the self-checkout.
“It was a little bit different from the get-go because not too many people engage in that type of behavior with their young children there,” Lima stated.
He also noted, “I noticed it was all grocery items, so it was all consumable food items,” Lima said.
That was when he realized the women and children were hungry and were stealing the food out of necessity.
“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 said.
He issued the women a trespassing notice but decided against filing charges. He then escorted them from the store, but then he turned around and went back in. Instead of punishing them, he bought them a $250 gift card to cover the entire cost of their groceries.
“I just made the decision that I was going to purchase the gift card and they could go to a different Stop & Shop and buy their Christmas dinner for their girls,” Lima added.
“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?” Lima said.
“I bought the gift card close in value to what would’ve been taken,” the officer told the outlet. “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.”
A lot of people are doing without and some are going hungry this year as the pandemic takes its toll across the nation. Many have lost loved ones, their businesses, and everything they have in this world.
“We have the ability to adapt to many things,” Lima said. “But also, we just need to be there for each other and be there for our neighbors.”
The incident was “a true testament of Officer Lima’s great character and decision making,” Somerset Police Chief George McNeil said in a statement.
“I would like to personally commend Officer Lima for his actions,” McNeil 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.”