Officer's empathy gives mom a chance at redemption

Posted January 8, 2016 6:29 p.m. EST
Updated January 9, 2016 9:39 a.m. EST

— On Dec. 10, a desperate mother crossed paths with a compassionate police officer and learned a lesson about human nature she hopes will inspire others.

Natasha Nicholls, an out-of-work graduate student, is sandwiched between caring for an 8-year-old son and her 76-year-old mother. As Christmas approached, she worried about being able to provide for them.

"I didn’t want to see my son disappointed for Christmas," she said. "I had to have something for him."

On a visit to the Triangle for a doctor's appointment, Nicholls walked into a Knightdale Best Buy and walked out with toys she didn't pay for.

"I was desperate. I was very desperate," she said. "I was in a place that I hope I never get to that place again, to the point that I'm going into the store and taking something that's not mine."

The store's security guard called police. Knightdale Officer Jarred Bridges, 25 and a father of two, responded to the store but saw through Nicholls' crime.

"Just talking to her, my heart really went out to her," he said. "She’s a parent. She wants the best for her child."

Bridges said he didn't want to charge Nicholls but was compelled to follow the law. He charged Nicholls with larceny. Then he did something unexpected. Bridges and the store security guard pooled their money to buy presents for Nicholls' son.

"Basically, they purchased everything for me that I was trying to take," she said. "It has also shown me how generous people can still be these days."

Bridges' boss, Knightdale Police Chief Lawrence Capps, agreed.

"I couldn't be more proud of Officer Bridges," he said. "He's a true asset to this organization, and he's a true embodiment of our mission and our core values."

Nicholls understands that some people will see her as a thief. She is determined to own her actions and serve any punishment.

"I’m here by my own doing," she said.

Her advice for others who hit bottom:

"No matter how bad it gets, don’t doing anything that’s going to jeopardize your future. Stick it out. Stay in the fight, and it will always get better," Nicholls said.