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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — What began as a crime the week of Christmas ended as a random act of kindness when IMPD officers prepared to respond to a typical shoplifting call Thursday morning.

Dispatchers told officers a man walked out of the Save A Lot grocery store at Georgetown and Lafayette Roads on the city’s northwest side with groceries he did not purchase. When officers found him and detained him, they found some food under his clothing.

“As we were checking him, we were just pulling off food, rice, some mashed potato mix and some various meats,” Officer Jim Gillespie said.

That’s when the accused man made a confession.

“We were like, ‘Hey man, what’s going on,'” Gillespie explained. “He’s like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m hungry.’ We were like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to take you back to the store because either way, this is still shoplifting and we’ve got to go through the process.'”

Once inside and speaking with the store manager, although he certainly did not condone the crime, a compassionate decision was made alongside the officers.

“He was saying, ‘Hey man, if you would have talked to me, we really try to help people out when we can, so we’re really sorry that you didn’t,” Gillespie explained. “We asked you to stop, you kept going so we had no opportunity to help you. It is around the holidays, it’s around Christmas, so we really don’t want to prosecute you. We don’t want to follow through with that.”

Instead, officers wrote the man a citation and worked out a deal with the store manager.

“The store manager mentioned there wasn’t going to be anything he was going to be able to do with that food,” Gillespie said. “So, I just asked him, ‘Would it be okay if we just went ahead and purchased it?'”

As they followed the man out of the store, they handed him the bag of groceries before they parted ways.

“Once we got outside the door, we had the bag of groceries and he was going to walk away and I said, ‘Well hold on a second,'” Gillespie said. “And I gave him the bag and I just told him, ‘This is going to be a lot easier to carry with this bag as opposed to under your shirt.'”

Of course, there are more ways to help than giving people food. You can call 211, connect them to Wheeler Mission, or download the Community Compass app which connects people to resources.

“The safest communities and the happiest communities are where neighbors are helping neighbors and each other, and that’s what community is all about,” Gillespie said.