ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was something that could have ruined their summer, but two kids said what an Albuquerque police officer did in response to their crisis is something they’ll never forget. The special moment was captured on camera by a stranger.
“There’s a couple of kids that I see on a fairly regular basis, they’re riding their bikes,” officer Paul Haugh, a 10-year veteran with the Albuquerque Police Department, told KRQE News 13.
“We love riding bikes, we ride them all day,” said 14-year-old Juliana Almentero.
Officer Haugh, Juliana, and her little brother, Fabian, are all used to waving ‘hello’ in the neighborhood. But one particular day last month, their worlds collided.
“They walk up to me and Juliana is just crying,” Officer Haugh recalled.
He was on patrol near the Walmart at San Mateo and Central. Juliana had been to the pool with her little brother, then they went to Walmart.
“We brought our bikes and we had them locked,” said Juliana.
But when she and her brother went outside to check, their bikes were gone. Someone had cut the lock.
“My heart dropped because it was my favorite bike!” The 14-year-old recalled. “The main thing I was worried about was how I was gonna get home. And I didn’t have a phone on me or anything.”
She admits she didn’t think the officer could help at first.
“I was like ‘there’s no point in telling a cop, all he’s gonna do is put a report out and then we’re never gonna get our bikes back,'” said Juliana.
Officer Haugh checked surveillance video at Walmart to try and see who took the bikes, but the cameras didn’t catch anything.
“He just kept on saying something like, ‘Let me see what I can do, let me see what I can do,'” Juliana told KRQE News 13.
“I said to them, ‘hey lets go inside,'” officer Haugh recalled. He said he didn’t want this theft to ruin the kids’ summer.
“He took us all the way down to the bikes and he just told us to pick one,” said Juliana. “And I was like…I was shocked.”
Officer Haugh didn’t stop there. He bought Juliana and her 12-year-old brother heavy duty U-bolt locks.
“I just kept telling him ‘thank you,’ and he went and bought us bike locks, like the better ones that won’t get cut,” said Juliana.
“I said to them, ‘This way if somebody really wants your bike they’re gonna have a tough time getting it.'”
The officer purchased the bikes out of pocket. “I just saw him pull out a credit card at the register, and like the price was really high!” Juliana said.
A stranger snapped a photo of the officer buying the bikes at Walmart and sent it to APD’s Facebook.
The photo now has more than 5,000 likes. However, Officer Haugh said he didn’t do it for recognition.
“Any officer would have done the same thing to see that smile,” the officer said. He said he still sees the brother and sister riding their new bikes in the neighborhood.
“I have seen them since then and they recognize me, and one of them came up and gave me a hug,” Officer Haugh recalled. He said building those relationships and making an impact on the community is what’s important.
“I’ve been in the same beat for five years, I’m kinda known as ‘Officer Paul,’ and I enjoy that,” he added.
Juliana said their summer was saved. The 14-year-old wanted the officer to know how much his generosity that day was appreciated.
“Thank you so much for fixing our summer, because without bikes like I don’t even know what we’d be doing,” she said.
The 10-year APD veteran said he doesn’t have kids yet. His first daughter is due in October.