After being caught trying to steal baby wipes, shoes and diapers, Robinson told Engravalle that she had attempted to lift the items in a desperate effort to provide for her daughters.
Engravalle, who had noticed that some of the children were barefoot and had dirty feet, went back inside the store and quietly purchased the stolen merchandise for the family, who were gathered in the parking lot crying at the time, according to the paper. Robinson told ABC News that the officer even let her daughters pick out their shoes.
“Obviously she is going through a tough time,” Engravalle told NBC affiliate KSHB. “Wal-Mart might see her as a criminal, but I just saw her as a mom going through a really difficult time.”
It total, Engravalle spent $300 of his own cash, a gesture that overwhelmed Robinson.
“It was a shocker,” she told the Kansas City Star.
She told KSHB that she was embarrassed by her decision to shoplift but that she had run out of options. She said Engravalle, who issued her a citation for misdemeanor theft but declined to arrest her, allowed her to keep her family intact.
“Every morning I get up and keep breathing for them,” she said, referring to her daughters. “I could take the easy way out and send them to live with my mom, but I’m not going to do that. They’re the reason I live.”
Why did Engravalle decide to help the family?
“The officer had two children of his own, and he thought of his two kids,” Roeland Park public information officer John Demoss told ABC News. “He thought it was the right thing to do.”
Earlier this year, Engravalle was the recipient of an award after he helped save the life of an infant who was choking, the Kansas City Star reported.
“He’s a really good guy with a compassionate heart,” Police Chief John Morris told the paper.
The person who appears to remain least impressed by Engravalle’s actions is the officer himself.
“I didn’t give it a second thought,” he told the Kansas City Star. “I just wanted to do right by the children.”
Demoss said the police department has received numerous calls from people seeking to help the family, according to ABC News.
Last week, a local radio station raised more than $6,000 for the family, Morris noted.
“I’m so appreciative,” Robinson told ABC News. “I’m embarrassed that I was stealing, but it couldn’t go to more deserving girls.”