SOMERSET (CBS) – A Somerset Police officer who was called for a report of shoplifting ended up buying the suspects a gift card to help them buy a Christmas dinner for two young children.
“They were very appreciative and almost shocked in a way,” Officer Matt Lima said.
On December 20, Officer Lima responded to the shoplifting call at Stop & Shop on Grand Army Highway.
Lima spoke to a Stop & Shop employee who said two women with children were allegedly not scanning all of their groceries at the self-checkout kiosks, but putting the items into shopping bags.
“They both admitted that what they did was wrong, that they had never done it before, that they could look up that information up which I did,” Lima said.
The women told Lima they fell upon hard times and tried to take the groceries despite not having enough money to pay for them “so they could provide a Christmas dinner for the two young children.”
“Right away when I looked at those items I noticed they were all grocery items, they were all food items,” Lima said.
Lima served the women an order not to trespass at the store, and told the employee he would not be pressing criminal charges because all the items missing from the women’s receipt were groceries.
Lima then asked where the items were that had allegedly been stolen. The employee said they had been returned to the shelves.
“She wanted to provide a Christmas dinner to the two young girls,” Lima said.
Officer Lima has two young girls of his own and while he doesn’t advocate shoplifting, he felt like this crime required a different approach.
“I try and do what I can to give back when I can, and I just recognized that this was an opportunity for me to do that,” Lima said.
Lima bought $250 in gift cards using his own money so the women could buy groceries for Christmas dinner at another Stop & Shop store.
“Those girls just reminded me of my girls,” Lima said. “So if I were in that situation I would be very grateful if someone could help me and that’s what I tried to do for them.”
Police Chief George McNeil praised Lima’s actions, saying it was “a true testament of Officer Lima’s great character and decision making.”
“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.”