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Officer Buys Eggs For Woman Caught Shoplifting To Feed Family

A 47-year-old woman was caught stealing eggs in Tarrant, Ala., over the weekend. But instead of arresting Helen Johnson, police officer William Stacy bought her a carton of eggs in exchange for a promise never to shoplift again.

That wasn't the end of it. The story garnered so much attention, that offers of donations of money, food and clothes poured in from around the world.

"The last time I saw my house this full, I was 12-years-old and staying with my grandmother," Johnson, herself a grandmother, told the Birmingham News. "I've been crying all day."

Here's more from the newspaper:

"What a difference a week makes. Johnson's two daughters, a niece and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3, live with her in their Tarrant home. The kids' mother gets a welfare check - $120 a month - but that check was lost in the mail. Johnson herself gets a disability check, which is set to come this week.

"By Saturday, the family had gone two days without food. Johnson went to Dollar General on Pinson Valley Parkway with $1.25 and thought that would be enough to buy a carton of eggs. When she realized she was 50 cents plus tax short, she stuffed five eggs in her pocket out of desperation."

Those eggs broke. "I'm not a good thief at all," she told the newspaper.

A store worker at the Dollar General called the police, bringing Stacy to the scene. She said she had expected him to handcuff her. Instead, he bought her a carton of eggs.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, thank you Jesus for this man,' " Johnson said. "He is my hero."

Stacy recalled his own childhood, telling the newspaper his mother had had trouble feeding his sister and him. And, he said, he'd been on a call to Johnson's home once before and had seen the condition in which she and her family lived.

"The story she told me Saturday matched up with what I had seen when I was there," he told the newspaper. "I felt like it was the right thing to do. I didn't want to pass judgment on her."

Someone filmed the encounter on his cellphone and posted it on Facebook with the hashtag #feelgoodstoryoftheday. The video went viral — and the food donations began pouring in.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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