When Joe Holt witnessed the teenage boy's act in the Noland Road Hy-Vee parking lot Aug. 25, he felt moved enough to tell the boy's mom how impressed he was.
The Independence police officer was on duty that Sunday afternoon when he decided to take advantage of a little slow period and pick up a bit to eat. He watched the teen, a 14-year-old later identified as Tyrea Pryor, get out of the van in the rain, take off his jacket and try to shield an elderly woman from the rain as she shuffled to her car. Holt captured the moment on his smartphone
A seemingly simple cross-generation act of kindness stuck with the officer even after he surprised Tyrea's mother.
“It literally festered with me the entire day, so I posted something on Facebook,” Holt said. He not only wanted people to know what he witnessed but also hoped to track down Tyrea again to take him to dinner.
The post went viral, and Tyrea's uncle happened to see it and contacted Holt.
After Holt, an officer of eight years who joined IPD last year, then contacted Tyrea and exchanged some messages, the officer arranged to take Tyrea and his mother, Ebony, to Red Lobster this past weekend.
“He was very humbled, told me I didn't have to do that,” Holt said of his dinner offer. “I told him I wanted to.
“It was one of those moments … unfortunately in my career I see the worst of situations, but every once in awhile it's nice to see something good. You usually hear about it, but this time I got to see it.”
“He just popped out of nowhere, and I was like, 'What are you doing?'” Holt said, recalling the scene in the parking lot. “I kept watching to see what he was doing. I just couldn't do (let it go).”
Holt said Ebony also seemed very humbled by the experience. He said he's reached out to some friends to try to get her and her family – Tyrea has some younger siblings – into a better house than the rental where they currently reside.
“I don't think she knows how to take it all in,” Holt said. “She's just in awe that two totally different backgrounds come together.
“I told him to keep his heart where it's at. A heart that big, he'll go places.”
Holt said the experience has helped renew his professional faith.
“He helped me realize why I got into police work – to help people,” he said. “He's the hero, and I was just a cameraman.”