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When Tarrant, Alabama Police Officer William Stacy was called to the Dollar General store on Saturday, December 6, he wasn’t especially surprised. “We get shoplifting calls at Dollar General all the time,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “Usually people are stealing things like makeup or phone chargers – not things they need to get by.”
So when Stacy arrived to find 47-year-old Helen Johnson stealing eggs to feed her two daughters, her niece, and two young grandkids, he knew this incident was different. Johnson explained to Stacy that her family hadn’t eaten since Thursday. So instead of making an arrest, the officer, 23, bought Johnson a carton of eggs. “When she mentioned the kids and said they were hungry, that’s when I knew I wanted to buy the eggs,” Stacy says. “No matter what financial situation kids are in, it’s not their fault they’re hungry.”
Johnson tried to give Stacy the $1.25 she had in her pocket for the eggs, which cost $1.75 plus tax, but instead he asked only for a promise she wouldn’t shoplift again. Johnson told local news AL.com that she was shocked by the officer’s good deed. “I was like ‘Oh my God, thank you Jesus for this man,” she said. “He is my hero.”
The act of kindness was caught on video by another customer, Robert Tripp, and posted to Facebook, where it was been viewed more than 966,000 times and has received more than 22,000 likes. It has been shared nearly 13,000 times.
After letting Johnson go home, Stacy says his Lieutenant helped her sign up for the Tarrant Fire Department’s Toy Drive, which provides Christmas toys and food for families at the holidays. By that Wednesday, when Stacy returned to work, donations from across the country started pouring in for the Johnson family – a response to the viral video, which Tripp labeled #feelgoodstoryoftheday. “It took an entire shift to take all the stuff to her house and unload it,” Stacy says of the afternoon he spent delivering groceries to the Johnsons . “I’ve taken three Tahoe loads of food to her house, and I know a food bank came to bring her food, and they also got a Christmas tree donated.”
Stacy says he’s hoping this story will inspire people to donate to other hungry families as well. “It’s a rought city to live in,” Stacy says of Tarrant. “There are a lot of people who need food.” Stacy says the Tarrant Police Department is using this opportunity to start a fund to help feed the community as a whole.
On Facebook, users are calling Stacy “an angel in disguise,” but the officer says he was just doing his job. “There’s a real trust issue between law enforcement and citizens right now, but hopefully this shows we are not robots who just want to arrest people,” Stacy says. “We have hearts – you have to have a big heart and clear conscience of mind to do this job.”
Stacy says he still can’t believe the attention the story has gotten, since he didn’t know the interaction was filmed in the first place. “I don’t see myself as a hero. I’m not a big fan of cameras and the spotlight, I just want to do my job, do it the right way, and spend time with friends and family.”
The officer doesn’t have kids of his own, but says his fiancée has a 6-year-old son. “I’ve known him since he was one and I consider him one of mine,” he says. “I know what it’s like to have kids, and it’s tough. It’s the holidays, and I’m glad I could help this family.”
The Tarrant Police Department is still collecting donations for the Johnson family and other local residents. To donate, send checks to:
Tarrant Police Department Charity Fund Or Tarrant Police Department Charity Fund Johnson Family People’s First Credit Union 1140 Ford Ave. Tarrant, AL 35217.