TARRANT, Ala. — An Alabama police officer says that he wants to encourage other communities to help feed the hungry after he recently delivered several truckloads of groceries to a grandmother that was caught stealing eggs in order to feed her toddler-aged grandchildren.
Tarrant officer William Stacy was called to a General Dollar store on Dec. 6 as a woman had been discovered with eggs in her pocket. Helen Johnson, 47, says that she went to the store with $1.25 in cash, but arrived to find that the eggs were $1.75 and that she was 50 cents short.
As she didn’t have enough money and feared her grandchildren might starve otherwise, she placed three of the eggs in her jacket pocket. She was then discovered shoplifting and store personnel called the police.
When Stacy arrived on the scene, he learned that Johnson’s household hadn’t eaten since Thursday. Johnson lives with her niece, two daughters and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3. While Stacy said that he is often called to the store over shoplifting, he believed that this situation was different and saw a desperate woman who needed help and not punishment.
Johnson tried to give him the $1.25 to pay for the eggs, but he refused. Stacy bought Johnson a carton of eggs, and when she asked what she could do in return, he asked her to promise to never shoplift again.
“She started crying,” Stacy told reporters. “She said, ‘I need help. I need help, Officer Stacy, I need to put food in my babies’ stomachs.’ That’s what got me. That’s what hit me the hardest. I told her [to] park on the side of the parking lot. I ran in, bought the carton of eggs, came back outside, handed them to her and she got very emotional, very apologetic.”
“I was like, … Thank you Jesus for this man,” Johnson said. “He is my hero.”
Another customer at the store captured the incident on video and posted it online, sending the footage viral. By Wednesday, donations for Johnson, who lives on disability, and whose daughter receives just over $100 each month on welfare, poured in. Stacy and another officer then spent much of the afternoon delivering groceries to Johnson’s apartment. A local church helped her put everything away in her virtually empty cabinets.
“It took an entire shift to take all the stuff to her house and unload it,” Stacy said. “I’ve taken three Tahoe loads of food to her house, and I know a food bank came to bring her food…”
“I just busted out and started hollering,” Johnson, who said that she had been rejected by charities for not having a permanent address because of her moving in and out of motels and cheap apartments, told AL.com. “I was yelling so loud.”
Stacy said that he didn’t know that he was being recorded the day that he paid for Johnson’s eggs, and helped the woman just because he cared. He said he had days growing up as a child where his family struggled to put food on the table.
“I don’t see myself as a hero,” Stacy stated. “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.”
He said that he hopes the incident inspires other communities to help reach out to the hungry. The Tarrant Police Department will be working further to help others in the area in need of food.