Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama Woman Caught Shoplifting Hails Police Officer as Hero

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama Woman Caught Shoplifting Hails Police Officer as Hero

Article excerpt

TARRANT | Helen Johnson isn't a hardened criminal, but when those you love haven't eaten in days, you might do things you wouldn't do otherwise, she said.

The 47-year-old mother and grandmother didn't go to Dollar General in Tarrant Saturday with plans to steal eggs, or anything else. But she did, and she got caught.

What followed was a heartwarming story about a police officer with a kind heart who bought her the eggs, a video of a hug between the two that has practically gone viral and now the promise of more for a woman just trying to feed her family.

"I was just getting eggs and now that's saved my life," Johnson told Tuesday. "I've never been more grateful in my life. I'm so overwhelmed with the goodness of these people."

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.

You know what they say about karma, right? "Of course when I put them in my jacket pocket they broke," Johnson said. "I'm not a good thief at all."

A store worker stopped Johnson and asked her if she had taken the eggs. She said she did, and they said they had already called the police.

By the time she got to the door, Tarrant police Officer William Stacy was there, and told her to stay put. The officer said he'd already talked to Dollar General officials and they said they weren't going to press charges.

Johnson didn't know that, and said she was waiting for him to bring out the handcuffs. Instead, he went into the store and came back out with a carton of eggs. "She started crying, she got very emotional and was very apologetic," Stacy said. "She tried to give me the money she had on her, $1.25."

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

Stacy said he can remember times growing up when his mother had trouble finding ways to feed him and his sister. He had been on a call to Johnson's house once before, and had gotten a glimpse of the living conditions.

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

She asked how she could repay him, and he told her to not shoplift again. "Sometimes the best route is to not arrest," Stacy said. "I hope she won't do it again. I pray she doesn't, and I don't think she will."

Johnson asked Stacy if she could hug him, and he said yes. …

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