Florida Cop Buys 1 Week of Groceries for Desperate Mom Caught Shoplifting Food for Kids

Florida Cop Buys 1 Week of Groceries for Desperate Mom Caught Shoplifting Food for Kids
(Illustration - Shutterstock)

When a struggling single mother was caught shoplifting at a Miami supermarket, the officer who responded made an on-the-spot judgment call; instead of a ride to the police station, the officer gifted the mother a cart full of groceries and an escort home.

Jessica Robles told the officer she didn’t have the money to pay for food for her daughter and two young sons. She had walked out of the Publix supermarket with a cart containing $300 worth of groceries, bypassing the checkout and heading straight for her car.

Officer Vicki Thomas, a 23-year veteran of the police force, asked Robles whether she had food at home. “I looked at her in her face, and I told her, ‘Not at all,’” Robles later told CNN.

Robles’s then-12-year-old daughter, Anais, revealed the extent of the family’s desperation. “It’s not fun,” she said, “to see my brother in the dirt, hungry and asking for food, and we have to tell him, ‘There is nothing here.’”

Thomas informed Robles about food banks, churches, and other places where she could seek assistance. She also decided to help Robles and her young family on the spot. “I made the decision to buy her some groceries, because arresting her wasn’t going to solve the problem with her children being hungry,” she said.

Thomas went back inside Publix and purchased $100 worth of groceries for the mother and her hungry children. “I grabbed my debit card, ran back into the store, and bought things that would sustain her for a week or so,” Thomas later related to ABC News.
Illustration - Shutterstock | <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/ft-pierceflusa81019-overview-groceries-lined-on-1475581634">Joni Hanebutt</a>
Illustration - Shutterstock | Joni Hanebutt

“When I walked out, she saw that I had the cart of groceries and she burst into tears and asked if she could hug me,” Thomas continued, “which is kind of unusual for the suspect to be hugging the officer!”

Thomas told CNN, “She touched me. I could relate. I was a single mom, and, without the help of my family, that could have been me.”

Thomas admitted that she and several of her colleagues had helped suspects in similar ways before. “To see [the family] go through the bags when we brought them in, it was like Christmas,” she said. “That $100, to me, was worth it.”

Robles explained that her family ran out of money after her boyfriend lost his job. An issue with paperwork further complicated their situation, and the mother had lost federal financial assistance.

Because Robles’s shopping trolley amounted to just under the cutoff for a criminal misdemeanor, the mother was not taken into custody. Instead, she received a notice to appear in court.

Before leaving the family, Thomas had one request for Robles in return for the free groceries. “The only thing I asked of her is, when she gets on her feet, that she help someone else out,” the officer explained. “She said she would.”

After news of the Robles family’s dire situation and of Thomas’s act of kindness spread, offers of money and food began to pour in from the general public. According to the Daily Mail, Robles even made a return trip to a grocery store with a generous $700 donation from her local community.
Illustration - Shutterstock | <a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/tuscaloosa-alusa-june-6-2018-publix-1110500930">Ken Wolter</a>
Illustration - Shutterstock | Ken Wolter

But that wasn’t all; Robles was offered a job. John Challenor of phonedoctor.com invited Robles to submit her resumé and hired her as a customer service representative on the spot.

“There’s no words,” Robles told Challenor, “how grateful I am that you took your time and helped somebody out. Especially somebody like me.”

Years after Robles’s first serious brush with the law in October of 2013, amid a shopping trolley full of stolen groceries and an officer with a heart of gold, the struggling mom’s life has radically changed for the better. Hers and Thomas’s story continues to circulate, inspiring others to pay it forward to those who need it most.