Policeman pays for family's Christmas dinner instead of charging them for shoplifting

3 January 2021, 08:02 | Updated: 3 January 2021, 09:26

A US police officer called to charge two women for shoplifting instead paid for them to have Christmas dinner with their children.

Officer Matt Lima was called to a Stop and Shop supermarket in Somerset, Massachusetts, on 20 December, by security guards who saw two women with two young children not scanning all of their shopping at the self-checkout.

There were numerous items missing from their receipt and they were told to wait inside for the police.

When Mr Lima arrived, he took one woman aside to talk to her while supermarket staff distracted the children.

He found out they had fallen on hard times and tried to steal so they could give the children Christmas dinner.

"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," the officer told local broadcaster WJAR.

When he saw the items they were trying to steal were all food he made a decision to not charge them.

"The two children with the women reminded me of my kids, so I had to help them out," he said.

"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 handed them a notice not to trespass and then bought them $250 (£178) worth of gift cards with his own money so they could get food for Christmas at another Stop and Shop store.

"They were very thankful, they were kind of shocked," he said.

"I'm sure a lot of people in that same situation would be thinking that there was going to be a different outcome, and maybe they would be arrested or have to go to court."

Somerset Police 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."