What started as an ordinary shoplifting call turned in to something more for two Charleston police officers.
Patrolmen Ryan Willard and Duane Fields were dispatched July 30 to K-Mart at the Patrick Street Plaza to look into a shoplifting. They spoke to the loss prevention officer when they arrived and then were led to a room inside the store.
There they found a young woman and her two young daughters - a 7- or 8-year-old and a 2-year-old who was still in diapers.
When they learned what the woman had tried to take from the store, their hearts went out to her.
"She didn't take anything to benefit herself," Willard said. "She had only taken baby diapers, rash cream and some clothes for her children, 'cause she said she was going through kind of a rough divorce and her husband wasn't really helping out."
Willard, 24, and Fields, 34, talked about the situation with each other and then with the loss prevention officer.
"I just felt bad for her," Fields said. "I've got kids at home."
Fields, a father of two who just made detective, offered to buy diapers and rash cream for the baby and Willard took her and the children into the store to pick out a couple of outfits, shoes and socks.
"You could tell she was just down on her luck, and it's good for the police to be able to show people that we're just normal just like them and that we can step out of our boundaries and help in their time of need as well.
"I try to live a good, Christian life and help people when they need help. It was great to be able to help the kids."
Fields said the woman was shocked but thankful. Willard said she asked them why they were going out of their way and using their own money.
"She asked me, 'Why are you doing this? You're cops,'" Willard said. "I said 'Ma'am, I just want to let you know we're here for you. We're here to help you when we can, whether it's coming to a call or buying something for your kids.'"
"I think every police officer, if you ask them, they all have different reasons as to why they wanted to become a cop," Fields said. "But I think the underlying reason why everybody who wears this uniform becomes a cop is to help people."
It's not uncommon for officers to encounter such a situation and they're not the first officers to do something like this.
A couple of weeks ago another of the department's officers bought a hamburger for a child and took them back to their home. Fields said he and Willard were shocked to learn the Daily Mail was aware of their good deed.
They hadn't told many people about what they'd done. It wasn't that they didn't want anyone to know, just that they didn't need the recognition.
One of their superiors told the Daily Mail about the deed.