Police busted a North Carolina woman for stealing from a grocery store to feed her family, but when they went to her home and saw what she was going through, they decided to get involved in a big way.
Theresa West was arrested on Nov. 5 and charged with larceny after Food Lion grocery store employees spotted her trying to make off with a couple loaves of bread, pasta sauce, pasta and packaged salads, reports WTVD.
The total haul added up to around $36, notes WRAL. Workers took down her license plate number and reported the incident to police, who promptly tracked her down at her mobile home.
When caught, West immediately admitted to stealing the food.
"She kind of hung her head and told us what was going on and why and that she was sorry," said Hillsborough police Corp. Keith Bradshaw.
West, a 44-year-old mother of three adopted children, is recovering from a traumatic brain injury and as such has not been able to work.
"I had to go out and steal food, and that's desperate, and I'm sorry for doing what I did but my kids were hungry," she said.
Her children had not eaten for three days, she said.
"We called the churches and everything and everyone was like, 'We go through Interfaith Council, we go through this and go through that’ and nobody would give us anything," explained a tearful West. "We had nothing."
When the officers came by to speak with her, they decided she was telling the truth about the extremely hard times her family was going through.
"I opened the refrigerator and it was completely bare," said Bradshaw. "I think there was one little pack of cheese in it ... So, we said, 'How can we help that and in the same sense help her so that she doesn't have to feel that she has to go do those things?'"
While West headed to the station to be booked, Bradshaw and his partner went to the grocery store and spent around $140 of their own money to pick up some supplies for the hungry family and brought them to her home.
When West returned, she greeted them with "lots of hugging and crying and thankfulness," said Bradshaw.
"Sometimes helping isn't just writing that ticket or arresting someone," he explained. "Sometimes, you have to think outside that box."
The officers gave West a phone number to call if she needs anything more, especially with Thanksgiving coming up.
"My favorite verse is Matthew 23:24, 'Whenever I was hungry, you fed me,'" West told WRAL. "I'm struggling so hard to make it and just to have somebody to come help me is just been a miracle."