Texas Cop Gives Boy a Ride Home, Then Buys Food for His Family

Officer James Riley did several good deeds this week.
Officer James Riley took it upon himself to help a family in need. James Riley/Austin Police Department

A police officer in Austin, Texas, has been very busy doing good deeds. 

While out on patrol, Officer James Riley was told by a citizen that a little boy was walking alone in a parking lot. "He looked fairly young," Riley told InsideEdition.com. When Riley approached him, it took a bit of talking to get the child to open up.

"He kept saying 'bye,' and walking away," the policeman said. With a little cajoling, Riley was able to convince the boy to get in his cruiser so he could take the child home. The boy said he was 9, and that he had been out buying snacks for himself and his little brother.

The kid's house was less than one-tenth of a mile from the parking lot, Riley said, and at the boy's apartment, the officer discovered the little brother, and no adults. After a quick walk-through of the home, Riley also discovered there was very little in the way of food.

"I looked in the pantry and the fridge, and didn't see much food in there," Riley said. He took it upon himself to do something.

He told the children not to leave the apartment, and then went to a grocery store and stocked up on food that would last awhile and stick to their ribs. He bought ramen, cereal, hamburger and bread. He called his boss and told him what he was doing. His boss said he was in for $20. At the store, he recognized an off-duty officer doing security at the market. He was in for $20 as well.

He purchased things the boys would be able to make for themselves without turning on the stove.

He also called the boys' mother, who was at work. He learned the family had recently lost its food stamp benefits. The boys were home alone for a few hours while their mom was at her job. They would be starting summer camp in a week, but until then, the mother said she had no child care and had instructed her children to stay in the apartment until she got home.

Neighbors were checking on them while she was gone, she told Riley.

"I wasn't particularly concerned about their safety," Riley said. "They didn't seem to be in danger and they seemed very responsible for their age."

He was concerned that they didn't seem to have much food. "They're kids, they shouldn't be worried about where their next meal is coming from," he said.

Buying groceries that would get the family through several days seemed the best way to provide quick assistance, Riley said. "They needed an immediate solution and I could provide that," he said. "My sole goal was I knew I had an opportunity to help them out."

He also knew that if he didn't do anything to help, "I was going to keep thinking about them two boys."

Returning from the store, he had the boys help him carry the groceries in. All three stored them in the fridge and the pantry. He counseled them on the importance of staying inside, and told them to call 911 in case of an emergency.

He told their mother about a local food bank and a church that provide assistance to families in need. He said he just spoke to her a few days ago. The groceries "really, really helped her," he said. "She's trying to get her food benefits restored."

The Austin Police Department, where Riley is a five-year veteran, posted a photo of Riley's purchases on its Facebook page, commending him for thinking with his heart.

"This act of kindness ... is just one example of how our officers work to make Austin a safe community," read the social media post. 

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