Crime

Accused shoplifter with terminally ill wife gets break from cops at Kansas Walmart

If you witness a crime, here’s what to do

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity. (Nicole L. Cvetnic / McClatchy)
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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity. (Nicole L. Cvetnic / McClatchy)

When police caught up with a man suspected of shoplifting from a Westwood, Kan., Walmart store last weekend, they found out there was more to the man’s story than some stolen merchandise.

The man, accused of walking away from the store with some cold medicine, diapers, and other items, had a terminally ill wife at home, and a young son with special needs. He was in an especially difficulty spot at that moment, with the store insisting he be charged for the alleged theft and a separate warrant out for his arrest in Lenexa.

But, as the Westwood Police Department explained in a Facebook post this weekend, police officers from four local departments found a way to cut the man a break.

“All had a job to do, but did it with compassion,” the Westwood Police Department’s post said. “Got to like that kind of teamwork.”

The work started with a Westwood police officer responding to the theft complaint on Jan. 27 at the Walmart store at 4701 Mission Road. While that officer spoke to a store employee, officers from the nearby Fairway and Roeland Park police departments checked the area outside, found the man accused of stealing, and heard his story.

While they sympathized with his plight, they also heard from the Walmart, which wanted the man arrested.

The officers found another difficulty while running the man’s name through the police computer system. He had a warrant out for his arrest in Lenexa for a low-level misdemeanor.

But the Lenexa officer who soon arrived also sympathized, and worked with the other three officers to find a solution.

The police gave the man a notice to appear for the shoplifting charge, instead of locking him up. The Lenexa officer, similarly, gave the man a signature bond instead of jailing him.

The Westwood, Roeland Park and Fairway officers bought the man some of the products from the store and he was given a ride home.

“Nobody went to jail,” said Sgt. Gary Baker of the Westood Police Department. “It was a good thing.”

Ian Cummings is the breaking news editor for The Kansas City Star, where he started as a reporter in 2015. He is a Kansas City native who graduated from the University of Kansas in 2012.
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