(KTLA) — A Kansas police officer used his own money to help out a widowed mother of six who was caught stealing on Monday at a Wal-Mart in Roeland Park, according to a report.
When Officer Mark Engravalle of the Roeland Park Police Department was called to the store to investigate the shoplifting report, he found a tearful Sarah Robinson and her six children in the parking lot, Kansas City-based television station KSHB reported.
He immediately noticed that three of her children weren’t wearing shoes, and that their feet were covered in dirt.
The $300 in stolen goods from the store included not just children’s shoes, but also diapers and baby wipes, according to the station.
Robinson explained to the officer that she was homeless, and that she and her kids had been living in her car since her husband accidentally drowned several years ago, the station reported. On occasion, the family was able to rent and share a bedroom in a stranger’s Kansas City home.
“Being a father myself, it obviously pulled at my heart,” Engravalle told the KSHB.
The officer added he knew at that point he needed to do something to help the family out. He then ducked back inside the Wal-Mart and reached into his own pocket to buy diapers, wipes and a pair of shoes for each of Robinson’s children.
“Obviously she is going through a tough time. Wal-Mart might see her as a criminal, but I just saw her as a mom going through a really difficult time,” Engravalle said.
Robinson said she was embarrassed by her actions, but told the station she’d run out of people to ask for help. She also feared she would lose her daughters
“Every morning I get up and keep breathing for them. I could take the easy way out and send them to live with my mom, but I’m not going to do that. They’re the reason I live,” she said.
Engravalle gave Robinson a ticket for breaking the law, but ultimately decided not to arrest her.
“What she did was wrong, but I think her heart was in the right place wanting to take care of her children,” he said.
For her part, Robinson was thankful that the officer did not arrest her and take away her children. She added she was also grateful for his generosity in paying for the much-needed items.
“He did something that will never be forgotten. He helped us when nobody else will,” she told the station.
CNN contributed to this story.