Instead of Arresting Two Women, Officer Opens Wallet To Help Family in Need Have Christmas Dinner


People shoplift for different reasons. Some, on a whim. Some, accidentally — finding out out they have an item in their cart they forgot to scan. Some, for the thrill.

And some shoplift because times are hard and they’re trying to provide for their families.

Five days before Christmas, two women at a Stop & Shop in Somerset, Massachusetts, were stopped for “forgetting” to scan items in their cart.

The store gave them a “Notice Not to Trespass” and asked them to return the unscanned items.

Officer Matthew Lima responded to the scene.

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“The allegation was that the two females were scanning some items at self-checkout but bypassing other items and bagging those items,” he told WJAR-TV. “Dispatch indicated it was two females and two young small children and they were detained by Loss and Prevention over there.”

The fact that the two women had two children with them piqued Lima’s interest, so he started asking some questions.

“I have two girls myself, who are similar on age to the two girls that were there, so it kind of struck me a little bit,” he explained.

“The woman I talked to, she explained that she was working right now, but the mother of the children was not working and there were some other family issues going on and that what she had taken was Christmas dinner for the kids.”

The women said they knew what they’d done was wrong and that they’d never shoplifted before, and Lima was able to confirm that was true, according to WBZ-TV.

As the officer reviewed their receipt, he discovered the items they’d attempted to steal were not pricey accessories or unnecessary luxuries — they were food items. That struck Lima, and he could understand the mother’s position.

“Obviously, this family was in some need, and I can’t imagine having to make that decision, you know — ‘Do I go to Stop & 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?'” he said.

Moved by their plight, Lima bought a $250 gift card for the woman so that she could have her Christmas dinner after all.

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“I bought the gift card close in value to what would’ve been taken,” he explained. “I just did what I felt like was right. You know, I just tried to put myself in that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”

He said the two women were “very thankful” and “kind of shocked,” as anybody might have been if a cop showed up to the scene of your crime and gave you a gift card instead of arresting you.

“I would like to personally commend Officer Lima for his actions,” Somerset Police Chief George McNeil later said in a statement. “His actions exemplify what it means to protect and serve the members of our community.

“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.”

Thanks to Lima’s generosity, the mother not only gets the Christmas dinner she wanted for her kids, she now has an awesome story to go along with it.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking