The call for Tega Cay police to rush to Walmart Tuesday evening started out as an “erratic” woman with a baby.
In the middle were changing diapers, and clothing and feeding a hungry and filthy baby.
It finished with a baby leaving safe and fed and clean.
What ran throughout was a lesson about kindness underneath bulletproof vests in a dangerous job and the remarkable capacity of the human heart.
“Our officers found a child that was in danger, who needed help,” said Tega Cay Police Chief Steve Parker. “They did not have to do what they did next. But they did that, and more. They went absolutely above and beyond what it is to be a police officer. The Walmart employees did, too. What they did is show care and compassion. They showed love.”
After 6 p.m. Tuesday, employees at Walmart in Tega Cay reported to Tega Cay Police Department that a woman was climbing shelves and her baby was urinating on the floor.
Officers Matt Connolly, Billy Donahue, Matt Boyd and Sgt. Vince Holland found the child, described as an infant, in a diaper covered with and leaking feces and urine. The woman, whom police said was the child’s mother, then jerked the baby from a shopping cart and tried to walk away from officers.
But the officers took hold of that child even though the baby was, in the words of the officers, “filthy.”
The cops held on to that wet and dirty child. But that wasn’t all.
Officer Connolly cleaned the infant and put on a fresh diaper. The cops and Walmart employees bought new, clean clothes that were put on the child.
The officers then found out from store surveillance the mother and child had been in the store for about five hours, according to a police report.
The cops and employees bought food and juice and the child ate it all. Officers stayed with the child for hours after notifying S.C. Department of Social Services about a child in danger.
The group bought more food, and more clothes, and more diapers. They gave it all to DSS for the child.
The infant, along with two other minor children at the mother’s home, were taken into emergency protective custody by DSS, police and emergency officials said. There is an old cop slogan of serve and protect. Tega Cay cops showed it really does exist.
“We as a police department are extremely proud of these officers,” said Tega Cay police Lt. Buddy Spence. “This is what community is all about.”
Police charged infant’s mother with three felony drug charges after narcotics were found. The drugs included meth and more than two dozen pills. The mother also was charged with shoplifting and cruelty to a child.
The mother remains in the York County jail.
The Herald is not naming the mother, or showing her picture, to protect the identities of the children.
“That little baby did nothing wrong,” Parker said. “This sad situation shows the dangers of drugs to the most vulnerable out there - small children.”
But it also shows the Walmart employees and the police went the extra step, Parker said.
The department is recommending all the officers receive commendations, Parker said.
When it was over late Tuesday, the officers went back to work, working their shift until 6 a.m. Wednesday.