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Caught on camera: IMPD officers pay for shoplifter’s food

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Instead of arresting a shoplifter at a Save-A-Lot on the city’s northwest side Thursday, two Indianapolis police officers decided to pay for the suspect’s food.

On Friday, News 8 received body cam footage of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jim Gillespie and another officer at the store located at the intersection of Lafayette and Georgetown Roads.

The store manager told police that a man had slipped food into his jacket that he didn’t pay for.

The manager decided not to press charges, and the video shows the officers uncuffing the man. That’s when they decided to help him out.

“Me and the other officer exchanged looks, like, ‘This is a good opportunity to help somebody out.’ Neither one of us was really interested in arresting the gentlemen, either,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie, a 14-year veteran on the force, walked the man outside with the bag of food and gave it to him when he turned around.

“He didn’t take it at first. He was taken back and had a really shocked look on his face, and I said, ‘This is for you.’ He took the bag. He was really grateful and had an attitude of gratitude in his eyes,” said Gillespie.

He told News 8 that officers do things under the radar for people in need every day.

“I really can’t tell you the number of times I have seen officers step up and help people in need … Whether it is buying groceries, changing a tire, buying air conditioners — all kinds of things officers have done. When you see the video, understand this is normal for us,” said Gillespie.

He said it’s unfortunate to see some people act in desperation, knowing there could be severe consequences.

“Usually in those circumstances, you see people go away in handcuffs or at least receive a citation where you are going to have to go to court,” said Gillespie.

Instead of getting a fine or spending a Christmas in jail, this man went home. Gillespie says he hopes this reminds everyone to have compassion for others.

“It gave all of us a good feeling. That’s what is really all about, is to give someone joy. And a lot of the time, you feel that same joy,” he said.

Hunger and poverty is a problem that hits every county in the state. Data from Second Helpings, an organization fighting hunger, shows that one out every seven people in Central Indiana is food insecure.