A Maryland police officer has been dubbed a good Samaritan after buying two packs of diapers a struggling mother attempted to steal from a grocery store.
Rookie Officer Bennett Johns responded to a shoplifting call at a local grocery store, according to CNN. A young woman, who was with her infant son, bought groceries and discovered that she didn't have enough to purchase diapers. She was caught by security trying to steal two packs of diapers valued at $15.
As an act of kindness, Johns decided to buy the diapers himself after arriving on scene.
"Officer Johns considered the situation and then made the decision to purchase the diapers out of his own pocket so that the young child would not suffer," the Laurel Police Department wrote alongside a photo of Johns purchasing the diapers.
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"Though it's but a snapshot of some of the work your officers are doing daily, we still wanted to take a moment to thank Officer Johns for not just fairly enforcing the law, but also showing empathy to an innocent child put in a difficult situation."
Laurel Police spokeswoman Audrey Barnes told CNN that Johns grew up with a single mom and understood the hardships mothers can face trying to provide for their children.
The mother, whose name has not been released, was still issued a citation for theft and will have to appear in court.
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According to Maryland law as seen on the General Assembly of Maryland website, a person convicted of stealing items worth less than $100 could face up to 90 days imprisonment, a $500 fine, or both.
Some Facebook users took issue with Johns' decision to issue a citation, saying that he may have exacerbated the mother's hardship.
"So hit her with a fine and court cost, but you bought her diapers, totally fixed all her problems," read one sarcastic comment. "Thanks so much...."
Others defended the cop, saying that he was simply doing his job.
"The cop did what he was supposed to do after the complaint was filed by the store," another person wrote. "It was his job to [c]ite, or arrest her. It's up to the store not to press charges, or the judge to let her off with a warning and a suspended sentence. This police officer deserves to be recognized for going over and above the call of duty."
CNN reports that the Laurel Police Department has since referred the mother to an advocacy organization helping struggling families.
"We want to make sure she doesn't fall through the cracks," said Barnes.