When Miami-Dade Police Officer Vicki Thomas, 55, was dispatched to look into a shoplifting case at a Publix grocery store, a store manager led her to Jessica Robles.
“She was crying. I said, ‘Okay, what did she take?’ And he pointed to a grocery cart that was full of groceries,” Thomas told ABCNews.com. “I’ve been on [the job] 23 years, and I went, wow.”
“She just filled up the grocery cart and she just walked out, which shocked me and I asked her, ‘Why?’” Thomas recalled. “She said, ‘My children were hungry.’ And that immediately impacted me.”
“My grandchildren flashed before my eyes,” Thomas said. “I knew at that time what I was going to do. I knew I was going to buy her groceries.”
Thomas and her partner took the woman to their car, completed her paperwork and then Thomas asked her to wait a few minutes.
“I grabbed my debit card, ran back into the store and bought things that would sustain her for a week or so and when I walked out she saw that I had the cart of groceries and she burst out in tears and asked if she could hug me, which is kind of unusual for the suspect to be hugging the officer,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I let her hug me.”
Thomas made it clear that she technically arrested Robles. The woman had no priors for shoplifting and since the amount of goods she tried to steal amounted to just under $300, the cut-off for a misdemeanor, it was up to Thomas’ discretion whether to arrest her or give her the misdemeanor and get a promise to appear in court. She chose the latter.
The woman didn’t have a car, so Thomas loaded the $100 worth of groceries into the police car and the officers gave her a ride home.