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Tennessee cops buy groceries for disabled elderly man

Responding to an emergency call that a 79-year-old man had not eaten in days, a group of five officers showed up at his apartment with bags of food, purchased with their own money.

Mike Blake/Reuters
Groceries are carried in plastic bags in San Diego, California September 30, 2014.

When an elderly Tennessee man was robbed of his bank debit card by his caretaker earlier this month, he was left with no way to feed himself. The disabled 79-year-old lives on a fixed income of Social Security benefits, and without his debit card, he couldn't buy any food.

But what began as a terrible situation had a happy ending. The man, who lives alone in Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., called 911 to say that he had not eaten in days, but he didn’t expect what happened next.

Shortly after he’d hung up the phone with the dispatcher, he got a visit from a group of police officers. They came with several bags of groceries – the handful of officers had spent $160 of their own money on enough food to last a month.

“I think he was shocked at the amount of food that we bought and just the fact that it was there without question,” Nathan Bolton, one of the officers, told WKRN-TV News of the elderly man, who wished to remain anonymous but wanted others to know about his Good Samaritans.

While stocking his shelves with the newly purchased food items, one of the officers snapped a few photos. On Sunday, the photos were posted on the local county’s Facebook page, Wayne County Now, and since then, they have been shared 11,000 times.

“Officers Protect And Serve,” the post read. “Tonight an elderly Mt. Pleasant man called the Mount Pleasant dispatch. He told the dispatcher he had not eaten in two days. Mt. Pleasant Police Officers Brian Gray, Nathan Bolton, Buddy Odom, and Adam Runions proving what law enforcement truly is. They sprung into action. These officers bought the elderly man enough food to stock his pantry for a month.”

“These guys really do protect and SERVE [sic],” the post concluded, adding a “Blue Lives Matter” hashtag.

Blue Lives Matter is an ad campaign that emerged in the wake of the proliferant #BlackLivesMatter activism against police brutality. As members of the police community and their allies have faced considerable antagonism from protesters, many feel as if their actions in the line of duty are not always appreciated.

“It’s difficult for us to see as police officers. We’re out here to take care of the public at large and that doesn’t always mean stopping a car. Sometimes it’s us doing little things like this,” said Mark Billions, one of the Mt. Pleasant officers.

A day after the photos of the generous officers surfaced online, the caretaker who allegedly stole from the elderly man was arrested under charges of theft and fraudulent use of a debit card. Police say she was identified in surveillance video showing her using the stolen card at different stores.

This isn’t the first small town cop story to go viral in the past several months, thanks in part to video cameras and the popular sentiment behind Blue Lives Matter. In July, a Connecticut officer was filmed helping a kid fix his bicycle after being called to the scene to break up a fight. Even earlier, in February, an officer drove to a shoplifting scene to find out that it had been a single father, trying to feed his 6-month-old son. Instead of arresting him, the Kentucky officer bought the man several cans of baby formula.

According to WKRN, the Mt. Pleasant officers have started a food pantry to help citizens in similar situations.They will take canned food donations at their police department.

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