By CNN Staff
(CNN) — The Florida police officer who bought groceries for a shoplifter and her children says she did it “just because I needed to.”
“She touched me,” Miami-Dade Police Officer Vicki Thomas said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.”
“I could relate,” Thomas said. “I was a single mom and, without the help of my family, that could have been me.”
Thomas’ act of generosity made national news and brought offers of help to the woman in need, Jessica Robles, and even a possible job opportunity.
Robles told CNN affiliate WSVN she was desperate and had no money to pay for groceries for her daughter and two young sons. According to Miami-Dade Police, Robles walked out of a Publix supermarket in late September with a cart carrying $300 worth of groceries. She hadn’t paid for them.
When Thomas asked Robles why she did it, the young mother said her children were hungry.
Thomas looked at Robles’ criminal history and didn’t find any major charges, WSVN reported. Instead of being taken into custody, Robles was issued a notice to appear in court and charged with a misdemeanor.
When the officer asked if she had food at home, Robles said, “I looked at her in her face, and I told her, ‘Not at all.'”
Thomas decided — in addition to telling Robles about food banks, churches and other places she could get food — she was going to help Robles and her family.
“I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn’t going to solve the problem with her children being hungry,” she said.
Thomas went back inside Publix and purchased $100 worth of groceries for the family. She told CNN she used her debit card.
“I have done similar things before, and the people I work with have also done similar things,” said Thomas, a 23-year police veteran.
Seeing Robles’ sons rummaging through the bags was more than reward enough for her act of generosity, Thomas told WSVN.
“To see them go through the bags when we brought them in, it was like Christmas,” she said. “That $100 to me was worth it.”
Robles said the family ran out of money after her boyfriend lost his job and a paperwork issue stopped the federal assistance they had been receiving.
Thomas told Robles she was going to require one favor in return for the free groceries.
“The only thing I asked of her is, when she gets on her feet, that she help someone else out,” the officer said. “And she said she would.”
Thomas said that since the story came out she hadn’t talked to Robles — though she would like to — but has been “overwhelmed with people thanking me,” including some fellow officers. One man even called police offering to buy groceries for the family, she said.
The officer said she’s been most moved by the public gratitude of Robles’ 12-year-old daughter Anais, whom she did not meet that day.
“Her ‘thank you’ touched me a great deal,” Thomas said. “She was very sincere, and that made it all worthwhile.”
Thomas didn’t tell many people about her act of generosity at the time. But the media learned of it and spread the word, and Thomas said it is an “amazing” feeling.
“I was so pleased that everything has worked out” for Robles, the officer told “New Day.”
“It makes me feel like a million.”
CNN’s Justin Lear and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.
™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.