Officer Justin Roby received what appeared to be a routine call on January 17 — a local supermarket caught a shoplifter, and the store’s loss prevention department needed a police officer to come down and slap cuffs on the culprit.
But when the London, Kentucky, patrolman showed up at the Kroger supermarket on North Main Street in the small city of about 8,000 people, he found a somewhat different situation than he might have had in mind.
And Roby decided to do something about it.
Instead of the usual petty criminal helping himself to an unauthorized discount or teenager trying to swipe beer or candy bars, the “suspect” was a young man with a six-month-old baby in a carrier.
The man’s alleged crime? Shoplifting baby formula to feed his newborn child. The baby’s mother was not around. The shoplifter was a single dad, who was unable to afford to buy his own baby food.
“Me citing him for court wouldn’t have done any good for him,” Roby told Kentucky TV station WKYT. “He’s already short on money, can’t afford formula, so me making him appear in court, he’s still not going to have any food for that baby.”
The Kroger supermarket loss prevention manager agreed. The store declined to press charges against the shoplifter, even though the single dad had the bad luck to get caught in the act.
But the man’s bad luck turned around, at least for the moment, when Officer Roby took one more step after deciding to let the man walk free, despite his obvious crime.
The cop, the father of a young son himself, reached into his own wallet and purchased baby formula for the man and his baby, with his personal, hard-earned cash.
“He was speechless for a while,” Roby said. “He shook my hand and said thank you, he didn’t really say a whole lot. He just had hard times right now and he just needed a helping hand and that’s all I did.”
The officer added that cops everywhere commit these random acts of kindness on a daily basis, but they don’t make headlines — mainly because the officers consider helping people just part of their job and rarely speak about it unless, as with Roby, somebody thinks to ask.
“They see just the uniform and just the car, just the tools that we have on our belt,” Roby told the TV station. “But behind the uniform, I’m a human being and I’m a person out in this community just like any of them. I have a little boy. I’m a father just like that gentleman was.”
Officer Justin Ruby also gave the man information on several public agencies that can provide help for parents in need.