Sanford cops play Santa, deliver Christmas gifts to church after donated toys stolen

Eric Hatcher, 50, stole two bags of donated toys from Riverwalk Church, police say

SANFORD, Fla. – Two Sanford officers gifted several boxes of toys to a local church after their Christmas donations were stolen earlier in the week, according to the Sanford Police Department.

Officers Timothy Corey and Shane Stewart partnered with the Walmart located at 1601 Rinehart Road to replenish the presents, the department said in a Wednesday Facebook post.

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“It really stuck home with me, especially since I’m a big Christmas person, so I’m all about holiday spirit,” said Stewart, one of the officers moved to donate after the robbery. “So for someone to do that right around Christmas time, when they’re trying to donate to families in need, it stuck with me big time.”

Stewart added he didn’t join the force to put people in jail.

“I want to help people. That’s why I became a police officer, so it makes me feel amazing to be able to actually contribute back to the community which has given me so much,” he said.

George Stephens, the church’s pastor, said they plan to send out about 1,000 boxes this year. Stephens expressed gratitude that the officers—“servants of (the) community,” as he called them—decided to step up and serve the church’s cause.

“This act of kindness, this generosity shown by our police department is things that people don’t see,” Stephens said. “They always look at (and) try to find the bad in our police officers, but they do a lot of good and they’ve been great to us.”

Police responded to the initial theft at Riverwalk Church on Nov. 6.

An employee told investigators she saw and confronted a volunteer leaving the 801 W. 22nd St. location with two bags full of toys, a police report shows.

Officers added the witness noticed 50-year-old Eric Hatcher placing the filled boxes into large bags and even larger boxes. He was tasked with boxing children’s toys for Christmas in exchange for community service hours.

Hatcher told the employee “he needed these toys for his children,” the report continues.

Officers said after the witness told Hatcher he couldn’t take the donations, the suspect peeled out of the parking lot.

According to the report, he headed south on Holly Avenue with around $500 worth of toys packed in his trunk.

Officers arrested 50-year-old Eric Hatcher a day after the incident occurred.

“Hatcher gave multiple stories as to the reason why he left the church with the toys,” the department said in a Facebook post.

He is facing charges of petite theft.