York police Cpl. Ken Sibley was first on the scene after the shoplifting call was broadcast, The Herald of York reported.
Sibley arrived to see a woman and five children leaving the store, according to police and incident reports. Sibley talked to the woman, and interviewed the clerk, found stolen items the woman allegedly had stuffed in the kids’ backpacks. She allegedly used the children as decoys.
Sibley and Lt. Keith Wills put the woman, identified by police as the mother of the children, in custody.
Sibley had five terrified children on his hands.
“They were distraught, sobbing,” Sibley told The Herald said. “I have three children of my own. I did what works. I bought them ice cream.”
Sibley took the kids in the store and gave them treats, and then other officers took the five children – ages 4, 5, 7, 10 and 12 – to the police department.
The mother went to jail, charged with five counts of unlawful neglect of a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, resisting arrest and shoplifting.
“The kids were the victims here,” Sgt. John Buchanan told The Herald. “We all wanted to help them. This was all about these kids after we saw what was going on.”
While talking with the children, the police discovered they had been living in tents and had not eaten in several hours, Edwards said.
“They needed us. Not later. Right then,” Edwards said.