‘He’s like a friend to me’: Cop spends own money on hotel, shoes, food for homeless family

© Butler County Sheriff's Office
A little bit can go a long way in repairing damaged relationships between communities and police forces, such as when an Ohio officer rented a hotel room for a homeless woman and bought shoes for her sons with his own money.

Tierra Gray and her two sons had just been evicted from their home. With nowhere else to turn, she decided to go to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. 

“I was just like Lord, what is it that I am supposed to do? What am I supposed to do right now? My kids are here sleeping inside of a jail lobby. I never thought I’d go through that, I mean, to that point. That right there was my breaking point,” Gray told WLWT.

She and her family slept in the police station lobby Saturday night, with the boys curled up on plastic seats under the fluorescent lights.

They had just the clothes on their backs and the blankets given to them by Officer Holly, Gray wrote in a Facebook post.

She prayed for God to send her an angel, she told WLWT.

Sunday morning, her angel arrived in human form, when Deputy Brian Bussell arrived to work.

“I know our visitation is at 9 am, and I saw the lady and the 2 young children sitting in the chairs,” Bussell said in a sheriff’s office statement. “I assumed they were here to visit someone in our jail. When I walked back out a while later, the children were asleep, and the lady was still sitting there, so I inquired if she needed assistance.”

As they talked about life and God, she told him that she was in the waiting process for assistance with housing. When she said she wouldn’t know anything until Wednesday, he told her he would help her get back on her feet.

“He told me that he was going to help and that we were going to get everything we need taken care of, and I just cried,” Gray said. “I was like, ‘Thank God, you are the angel I have been praying for all night.’”

Bussell and Dispatch Supervisor Miranda Sheppard called several shelters to try to find the family of three a place to stay, to no avail.

“Most of the shelters were overcrowded or there was a time requirement to be there and we were past that,” he said.

So the 25-year veteran of the sheriff’s office booked a hotel for them in Oxford, the town where they had been living and where the boys go to school. He’s paying for the 10-day stay himself.

Then Bussell bundled the family into his cruiser and took them shopping at Walmart. They boys got new clothes, toiletries and snacks. When they asked if they could get shoes, he told them they absolutely could. He even gave them money out of his own wallet, Gray said.

Her 8-year-old son Ziare gained a new superhero.

“He’s the best,” Ziare told WLWT. “He’s like a friend to me.”

“There are good cops,” Gray added. “They’re still out there. They’re still heroes to our children.”

Like many superheroes, though, Bussell kept his gallant actions to himself. It wasn’t until Gray posted a photo of Bussell with her sons on the department’s Facebook page to thank him that anyone even became aware of his good deeds.

“That’s actually how we found out,” Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones said in a statement. “It was shared so many times that I got a phone call asking if I knew what a generous gesture my deputy did.”

Jones praised Bussell’s compassionate actions, calling it “a true act of kindness.”

“I am pleased that he was able to help this family out,” the sheriff said. “This speaks volumes in light of all the recent negativity people are saying about law enforcement. I have some of the best employees here.”

Bussell’s generosity didn’t end on Sunday, however. He helped Gray find an apartment, too. She and her sons are hoping to move in on Friday, she told WLWT. Her husband is working in Cincinnati and is saving money to buy a car.