"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 police officer in Somerset, Massachusetts stayed true to the holiday spirit by helping a family who wanted nothing more than to give their children a Christmas dinner.
After being informed of a theft in progress, officer Matt Lima arrived at Stop & Shop, located on 815 Grand Army Highway on December 20, and he found two women being held at the store for allegedly shoplifting.
The store's Asset Protection associate told the police officer that he noticed the two women putting several items into their shopping bags but were not scanning all of the items at the self-checkout kiosks. The receipt also showed officer Lima that a number of items in the women's shopping bags were missing on the list, according to the report released by the Somerset Police Department.
"The allegation was the two females were scanning some items at self-checkout but bypassing other items and bagging those items," Lima explained, as reported by WJAR. "Dispatch indicated it was two females and two young small children and they were detained by Loss and Prevention over there."
What Lima found hard to ignore was the two children who were with the women. "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 said, as reported by WCVB.
"I have two girls myself, similar on age to the two girls that were there, so it kind of struck me a little bit," the officer added, according to WJAR.
After pulling one of the two women aside, the officer understood that the family had problems of their own and all they were trying to do was give the children a decent meal for Christmas.
Officer in Somerset, MA says he couldn't help feeling for two shoplifting suspects he was called to investigate - and he ends up helping them put a Christmas dinner on the table. See NE-012WE. pic.twitter.com/fIUH9zHpS0— CNN Newsource (@CNNNewsource) December 31, 2020
"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 shared.
Although Lima issued a "no trespass" order, he decided not to press charges on the two women. In addition to this, he also bought a $250 gift card so that the family could give the children a hearty Christmas dinner after all.
"Obviously, this family was in need and I can't imagine having to make the decision to go to Stop and 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?" the officer shared. "They were very thankful, they were kind of shocked."
Lima added, "I bought the gift card close in value to what would've been taken. 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."
The Somerset Police Department was also proud of Lima's actions that day, and Chief George McNeil said, "This incident is a true testament of Officer Lima’s great character and decision making."
"His actions exemplify what it means to protect and serve the members of our community," Chief McNeil later added. "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."