Police officer lauded for how he handled shoplifting case
Roeland Park A suburban Kansas City police officer said he is amazed by the public response to actions he took this week while responding to a routine shoplifting call at a local retail store.
Roeland Park, Kansas, police officer Mark Engravalle was dispatched Monday afternoon to a Wal-Mart store after a woman and a juvenile were caught shoplifting, The Kansas City Star reported.
Upon arrival, Engravalle was so touched by the homeless woman's crying, dirty, barefoot children that he went into his own pocket to buy shoes for the kids and the diapers and baby wipes the widow had been caught trying to steal.
"I didn't give it a second thought," Engravalle said. "I just wanted to do right by the children."
Engravalle, who has been a Roeland Park officer since late 2013, said such calls to the store are a daily occurrence. Normally, people are caught stealing things such as jewelry, cosmetics and electronics.
But this time, Sarah Robinson — who told the officer her husband had drowned several years ago and the family was living out of their car — and one of her daughters were caught trying to take diapers, wipes and shoes.
The girls, ages 15, 12, 4 and 2-year-old twins, were crying.
"They thought I was going to take their mother to jail," Engravalle said.
He asked Robinson if she had any money for the items and she said she didn't. Looking at the dirty bare feet and legs of the younger girls, he asked if they had shoes.
"She said no and started crying harder," he said.
Thinking of his own two children, Engravalle told the teen daughter to take her younger sisters and pick out some shoes. He also paid for the diapers and wipes.
"By then there wasn't a dry eye in the place, including mine," he said, declining to reveal how much money he spent.
Roeland Park Police Chief John Morris said he was not surprised by what his officer did. A few months ago, Engravalle was one of four officers who received a life-saving award in a case involving a choking infant.
"He's a really good guy with a compassionate heart," Morris said.