A somber day was momentarily brightened for Wellington police Lt. Jeff Shelton on April 19 while in Columbus.
After attending the funeral of officer Steven Smith, who was gunned down in an April 1o standoff, Shelton and five other law enforcement officers sat down for lunch at Red Robin.
That’s when a server picked up their $123 bill.
Jessica Dunbar caught Shelton and his colleagues completely by surprise. The encounter led to Shelton appearing April 25 with Dumbar on “Fox and Friends.”
“We came in and didn’t even expect it,” said Shelton. “The funeral was just around the corner from the restaurant, so (Dunbar) was already aware of what was going on. Her father is a retired police officer from a Columbus suburb. She asked us how we were doing. We told her that we had just come from the funeral and she started crying.”
After Dunbar provided what Shelton described as great service to the table, the party of six asked to have its bill separated for each officer. One check was soon brought back, which led the table to think that a mistake had been made.
When they opened the book, they found a heartfelt message from Dunbar that told them the check had been paid. It also offered condolences for their fallen comrade and words of encouragement regarding recent divisiveness in the country between police and civilians. Dunbar included the hashtags #bluelivesmatter and #weseeyou in her note.
“The main thing is, people need to understand that we’re no different than them,” Shelton said. “We’re just here doing our job. We chose this profession. When something bad is going on, we’re running toward it when everyone else is running away.”
Shelton added that the people of Wellington also regularly reach out to let officers know they’re behind them.
“I’ve been in the drive-through at McDonald’s and the person in the window will tell me that the man or woman in front of me paid for my meal,” he said. “People out here care. I think since chief (Tim) Barfield took over and I got promoted, we’re running the department as a more public-oriented place.”
“No one should be afraid to come up and talk to us. Even if I arrest someone today, it doesn’t mean that I would not talk to them on the street the next day. It’s business. There’s no hard feelings. We’re just out here trying to help people correct a wrong turn they may have made.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photo by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Lt. Jeff Shelton outside the Wellington police station.