When a police officer learned a mom was convicted for shoplifting, she bought her $140 worth of groceries
Police officer Katrina Culbreath is the kind of person who doesn’t need to know someone’s name to change their life.
She just does it. That’s why she didn’t bat an eye spending nearly $140 on groceries for a woman she’d just met in the municipal courtroom of Dothan, Alabama. While working as a court bailiff there, Culbreath was sitting on the court bench when she overheard a story.
One woman, who she’d later learn was Sheena Davenport, told another that she had been arrested for stealing food for her and her child a year ago from Wal-Mart. “She just started to tear up as she was talking to the lady, saying, ‘I never thought that I would experience this, that I would ever do something like this,’” Culbreath told A Plus.
As Culbreath listened in, Davenport explained how she “was struggling,” having applied for many jobs and not hearing back from any of them. At the time, her fiancé was laid off from his job, and she wasn’t able to receive government assistance, such as food stamps or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. To feed her then 6-month-old daughter, Davenport had resorted to shoplifting. “I don’t condone the theft, but I understand where she’s coming from,” Culbreath said. “…We’re all human. People make mistakes.”
In the courtroom, Culbreath turned to her and said, “Ma’am, all you have to do, before you ever get to that point of stealing, just come up to an officer. If you see me or anybody else — especially me — if I have it, I’ll buy you food and clothes all day. But if I don’t have it, I’ll make sure to find some way that you get what you need.” After Davenport thanked Culbreath for her kind words, the other lady chimed in and encouraged Davenport to apply to her workplace.
Remembering a time in her life when she’d been in a similar situation to Davenport, Culbreath told her to meet her outside after she was finished in the courtroom and she’d buy her some groceries. Though Davenport smiled and said “Thank you,” Culbreath thought she still looked a little skeptical.
Once outside, however, Culbreath was as good as her word. Better, even.
After telling Davenport to follow behind Culbreath in her car, she led her to Winn-Dixie, a regional grocery store chain. Even before they entered the store, Davenport was overwhelmed with gratitude. “Oh my god, you don’t have to do this,” she told Culbreath, near tears. “It’s not a problem,” Culbreath replied. “God put us here on this earth to help one another, bless one another…”
Once inside, Davenport reached for a smaller-sized grocery cart until Culbreath told her to get the bigger one. Together, they walked around the store, like two old friends on a regular ole shopping trip, bonding over stories of Culbreath’s 2-year-old son and Davenport’s 18-month-old daughter. Soon enough, they filled up the grocery cart with $139 worth of food, which Culbreath happily paid for.
After the duo exited the store, Davenport thanked Culbreath again and said, “I’m still trying not to cry real hard because I don’t want to make you cry… but you didn’t have to do this.” Before parting ways, the women exchanged numbers to share pictures of their children, talked for a bit more, and took a picture together.
Culbreath had no idea that picture would end up on Facebook — or receive more than 43,000 likes.
“Well, today I had a change in heart,” Davenport wrote in a Facebook post she later submitted to Love What Matters. “…After I told her she didn’t have to do it she started telling me her struggle and how she made it through… [T]here are still people out there who make a difference and when my time comes [I] will pay it forward.”
“I didn’t know it was on Facebook until I got tagged in it,” Culbreath said. “I never told anybody about it. I didn’t even tell my husband because he does stuff like this all the time… We just love to help one another. It’s nothing to brag about.”
Though the massive amount of unexpected social media attention made Culbreath “kind of a little nervous,” since she’s a bit of an introvert, but the post has helped her connect with old friends, none of whom were surprised by her kind act. “That has always been a big part of me with my family. We’re a helping family,” she said. “I’ve been raised where, you help somebody else who’s less fortunate because, one day, when you’re in a need, somebody’s gonna help you.”
While she would have never thought to tell anyone about her act of kindness, Culbreath said, “I’m glad that it does get in the public eye — to let them know that there are good people still out there.”
She was especially happy to be a source of positivity in law enforcement, though Culbreath told A Plus she considered herself in good company.
“I’ve seen plenty of other officers do the exact same thing that I’ve done,” she explained. Having worked in law enforcement for over nine years, first with the Ozark Police Department and now with the Dolan Police Department, she encourages other officers to “always keep those relationships [with civilians]. It carries a long way.”
And as for the average person just scrolling through Facebook: “I hope they take away from this — just be a kind-hearted person… Be kind and be gracious,” she said. “We all need to really take away the barriers of racism and stereotyping, and just come together and help one another.”
That help, she believes, starts at home.
“Your community can get better. Even if it’s just… donating time at church or your local community center, especially when they have food banks. Do a little something,” Culbreath said. “It really does make you feel good that you helped somebody else — even though you may not have even met that person you helped. Just know that you’ve helped someone.”