(CNN) — It was Atlanta police Officer Che Milton’s first week on the job when the call came in: Head on over to the neighborhood dollar store where someone was trying to shoplift a pair of shoes.
The suspect, he found out, was only 12. And the shoes she was trying to steal, a mere $2.
Between tears, the girl told Milton how even a $2 pair was too much for her family to afford and that she was just trying to do something nice for her 5-year-old sister.
This is where this story takes a turn, where it goes from an officer responding to a crime to his entire department banding together to help a little girl.
What he saw
Milton asked the girl to show him where she lived. She took him to a small house in a rough part of town.
The home was bereft of furniture. Sheets lay on the floor where a bed would normally go.
Her mom, balancing one child on her hip, was trying to tidy up.
She told Milton theirs was a family of seven: mom, dad and five children.
She explained her husband worked a lot and she stayed home. She couldn’t work because she couldn’t afford day care for the little kids.
“I saw the conditions. There was no food in the house and the kids were there,” Milton told CNN.
Milton went to a nearby pizza shop and picked up four large pies. He went back to the house and dropped it off.
That was in February and Milton’s gone back a couple of times, dropping off diapers or clothes or checking up on them.
“I have made mistakes in my life also,” he says. He knew he wanted to help.
What happened next
Soon after the shoplifting incident, when Milton’s sergeant called him in, he thought he was in trouble.
It was the opposite.
The department heard about the little girl and decided to share her story.
The support was overwhelming. It received numerous calls to help the family.
And soon, it will post clothing sizes of the children on its Facebook page so people can help donate.
“The way that Officer Milton handled this incident showed that not only is he here to enforce the law but also to go the extra mile and be a bigger part of the community he is policing,” the department told CNN.