Police officers praised after paying for woman's groceries instead of arresting her for shoplifting

'I looked in her bag. I decided — we decided — to say "We’ll pay for her food"'

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 08 July 2019 12:20
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New York City Police officers pay for groceries of woman accused of shoplifting

Three New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers have been praised after they paid for a woman’s groceries when she was caught attempting to steal the goods.

The moment at a Manhattan Whole Foods was captured by a fellow shopper, who snapped a photo and posted it on Twitter.

The image shows the woman burying her head in her hands, while the three officers stand around her at the cash register, paying for the food.

"I know that the police make split second decisions each day, so for the police to pay for the woman's food without hesitation was powerful," Paul Bozymowski, the individual who took the photo, told The Independent. "It was incredibly moving to see such a genuinely kind moment."

The officers have since been identified as lieutenant Louis Sojo, and officers Esnaidy Cuevas and Michael Rivera, who said during a press conference that officers all around the city act in this way frequently – but that these actions are rarely seen.

During that press conference on Friday they said they were heading into the store to when they were told by security guards that the woman was stealing food.

“I asked her, ‘What’s going on?’ She told me she was hungry,” Mr Sojo said. “So, I looked in her bag. I decided – we decided – to say ‘We’ll pay for her food'.”

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He added that they were not expecting the reaction they received.

“You know, I've been doing this for 22 years. This is not the first time I've paid for food. This is not the first time they've paid for someone's food,” Mr Sojo said.“We don't go out and do it all the time, but, you know, when you look at someone's face and you notice that they need you, and they're actually hungry. It's pretty difficult as a human being to walk away from something like that. We weren't raised like that. So, it's the right thing to do.”

Mr Bozymowski, for his part, said he did not think many in the supermarket noticed the police officers and their act of kindness. But, he said he was glad his photo had resonated.

"When I posted the photo, I certainly didn't think it would get this amount of attention. I'm happy it is," he said. "If the story can inspire others to be generous and kind, then that's good for all of us."

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