Johnny and his partner, Tim, drove up to the open field, took off their seatbelts, and took a look in the rear-view mirror. What they saw were a bunch of red plastic cups all over the area. Tim laughed and said, “Students. Let’s check it out.” They discovered a fire pit from the previous night. The chairs were stacked with stones. Plastic bottles and tin cans were tucked behind the chairs too. They started walking to their car. Then, they heard something behind the bushes.
Johnny Le and Tim Yee are used to responding to unusual calls. After all, they are deputies of the Sacramento County Sheriff. They’ve answered calls related to accidents, verbal disputes, and worse. They’ve practically seen or heard it all. But despite their years of experience, there are still things about this job that shocks them.
Tim and Johnny go through what most officers deal with every morning. They get up, get dressed, and say goodbye to their loved ones without knowing if they’ll survive the day. But the cops at the Sacramento Police Department have tried their best to change people’s perceptions of the police after a series of scandals and unarmed shootings. But not every action can be easily forgiven.
Protests broke out in Sacramento earlier this year after a young man was shot in his grandmother’s yard. The cops who shot the boy believed he was carrying something that could harm them, but all the boy was doing was trying to grab his phone from his pocket. The incident led to public outcry. But while Tim and Johnny weren’t involved, every officer felt the scrutiny of the people.
Men and women of all ages began to protest right outside the Golden 1 Center. They linked their arms in a chain and started shouting at the sports fans waving their tickets at them. “Join us or go home!” The Sacramento Kings beat the Atlanta Hawks that night, but there was hardly anybody there to see this amazing victory. And every move the cops made was being monitored and scrutinized.
Tim and Johnny weren’t involved in the shooting, but like the rest of their fellow officers, they were under the scrutiny of those they had sworn to protect. They didn’t arrest anyone during the protests, which allowed the community to express their anger and pain. It took some time to gain the trust of the community again, particularly the families. Then, Johnny and Tim made the news.
When the public saw the red and blue flashing lights, they felt fear instead of relief. Sadly, people often misjudge a cop’s motive, which was something Johnny and Tim knew too well. They arrived at a scene to answer a call for help, but this made the crowds run. This was heartbreaking to see. They became cops to keep people safe. But one officer’s mistake had ruined all of their reputations. Was there any way to change people’s opinions?
Johnny and Tim considered Sacramento their home. It was where they were raising their families, and they had no intention of leaving. But they struggled to make things right with a community that was afraid of them. They had dedicated themselves to helping those in need, but people didn’t seem to want their help. A call to the scene could go from bad to worse fairly quickly, but they were ready for that. Then they got a call about a woman who was in the woods.
Johnny and Tim were apprehensive when they learned that there was a homeless camp on Elk Grove-Florin Road behind a Walmart. In the past, they’d found some shady elements among those living in homeless camps, whom they had to ask to leave. Those days were tough, but the officers were surprised by these particular campers.
“Area clear,” Johnny reported on his radio mic after he and Tim searched the entire campsite. But just as they were about to leave, they saw a parked van. Then, they noticed there was movement. Instinct made them reach for their firearms. But they were absolutely horrified when they saw a little girl looking at them from the bushes.
What was she doing there all alone? Had her family abandoned her? The little girl answered all of the deputies’ questions. She had matted hair, dirt on her face, and her stained clothes were way too big for her size. Then she pointed to the van nearby. When the officers took a closer look, they started to cry.
The van had three adults and two other children. In total, the Loveless family was comprised of Shannon, an out-of-work mother, her 22-year-old son, who couldn’t find work that would keep his siblings fed, and three children ages 3, 5, and 7. Shannon had been using food stamps to keep everyone fed. But how long had they survived under these horrible circumstances?
Shannon and her family had parked behind Walmart so that she could prepare food for her kids. But the Loveless family had struggled to survive in their van for four months. They had very little, and yet they managed. But the officers noticed that the family “struggled to make due with their meals.” They had very little food and the poor conditions touched Johnny. They couldn’t allow this to go on.
Johnny shared, “I kind of choked up a little bit, just to see the kids hungry.” But Shannon was worried. Would the officer take her kids away from her? Was she under arrest? “It was a shock because I didn’t know if we were going to get in trouble,” she said. The cops didn’t understand how the kids were so happy despite the condition they were in. Then, the officers did something amazing.
Johnny and Tim returned to the van with some food, toys, and even a key to a motel room. They wanted to help the Loveless family in any way possible. And Shannon was stunned by their kindness. “It’s been awesome. We only see the negative side of police officers, and to see this side of them is something really awesome.” These two deputies set a new standard of what it means to be a cop. “I’m going to call that day a miracle,” said Johnny. Now, the Loveless family had a shot at a second chance.