CBSN

Alabama woman feels "blessed" by cop's good deed

It was a simple act that gained the attention of thousands after being caught on video and posted online: An Alabama cop chose not to arrest a woman stealing eggs, and instead bought them for her.

Helen Johnson, the woman on the receiving end of the kind act, told CBS affiliate WIAT-TV in Birmingham the day after the story broke that she's struggling to find a job and pay her bills.

Sitting on a tattered sofa in the small apartment she shares with her niece, two daughters and two young grandchildren, she told WIAT, that she and her family "ate from day to day," but the moment she walked into the Dollar General store, her grandkids hadn't eaten in two days.

"I actually thought that if I didn't feed those babies, they were going to die," she said.

She said was 50 cents short the amount of money it took to buy a dozen eggs, so she thought if she just stole three, she could feed them.

"I had no idea anybody was watching me," Johnson continued. "I thought I was smooth as a criminal, and so I put three eggs in my jacket pocket."

After she was caught and Tarrant Police Officer William Stacey arrived, he told her to wait in the parking lot, and she thought she was going to jail for trying to feed her grandkids.

Instead, he returned with a dozen eggs for her.

"She tried to give me all the money she had," Stacy said. "It was about $1.25. I told her the best way to pay me back was to never do something like that again."

When the store agreed not to press charges, Stacy decided to pay for the eggs.

"He did something he didn't have to do. He just bought me eggs," Johnson said. "Any time you see the police, you're always afraid you've done something wrong, and they're after you and they're about to get you."

The gesture made her feel "blessed" and "more than happy, and the kids were more than happy."

Officer Stacey's act of kindness has benefitted more than just Johnson's family. WIAT reports people from all over the country have been calling the Tarrant Police Department, asking to donate either directly to Johnson or to the fire department's annual toy and food drive.

Johnson said she's inspired to pay it forward.

"This man -- he pushed my world in the right direction," she said. "And I will never forget it."