Christmas is a time for giving and sharing joyous holiday traditions with loved ones, like decorating the family Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies with family members, or gathering around the holiday dinner table on Christmas Day.
Yet, for those in need and are unable to provide for their loved ones during the holiday season, Christmas can be an extremely stressful time of year.
When Massachusetts police officer Matt Lima was about to go off duty, he received a call about a shoplifting incident happening at a food store in Somerset. Once Lima arrived at the store, he was informed by the store manager that his store clerk had observed two women with young children at the self-service checkout counter allegedly not scanning all their groceries before putting them into shopping bags.
Lima casually approached the women and ushered one aside while the children were being distracted by store employees so that they wouldn’t be alarmed seeing a uniformed officer.
“I have two girls myself, similar in age to the two girls that were there, so it kind of struck me a little bit,” Lima recalled. “The woman I talked to, she explained she was working, but the mother of the children was not working and had some other family issues going on and that what she had taken was Christmas dinner for the kids.”
Lima spoke with the Stop and Shop Asset Protection associate and checked the store receipt for the items the women had planed to pay for. He also noted that it was just 5-days before Christmas.
“There was nothing else on there like health and beauty items, shampoo, anything like that. It was all food,” he said. “I asked an employee where the other items were that they had planned to take and was informed they were put back on the shelves.”
The store manager then issued the two women a “no trespass” order, but the incident was still an attempted shoplifting charge and under normal circumstances, the women would be arrested.
Given the circumstances, Officer Lima decided not to charge the women.
“Obviously, this family was in need and I can’t imagine having to make the decision to go to Stop and 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?” stated Lima. “They were very thankful, they were kind of shocked. I’m sure a lot of people in that same situation would be thinking that there was going to be a different outcome, and maybe they would be arrested or have to go to court.”
Police Officer Matt Lima went even further by purchasing a $250 gift card so the women could give their family a holiday dinner the right way.
Following shoplifting call, police officer pays for groceries of family in needhttps://t.co/J81xgfmiIo— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 3, 2021
“I bought the gift card close in value to what would’ve been taken,” said Lima. “I just did what I felt was right. It’s not about me, I just tried to put myself in that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”
Chief George McNeil said the incident was a true testament of Lima’s great character and decision-making, adding, “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.”