Officer helps woman whose van, wheelchair were stolen

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was about eight months ago that Jacksonville Sheriff's officer Mike Natalzia took a call that he says wasn't intended for him, a woman's van and wheelchair had been stolen.

"I took the call from a friend who asked to go to lunch," he said. "It wasn't supposed to be my call."

It's something he says changed his life, it led him to meet Deborah Thompson.

He says when he saw her situation, being left with nothing all while volunteering at the Red Cross in Jacksonville, he felt he had to do more than just fill out the report and move on.

Thompson was a stabbing victim some 10 years ago, and needed her wheelchair to get around easier. She has been through a lot of hard times.

"But through the adversity, and through her attack years ago, through losing her car and everything in it she's still upbeat. She's still happy. She's an inspirational person," Natalzia said.

So, after filling out the report, he asked the communications department at JSO to get the media involved, to see if anyone in the public would be willing to help her out.

First Coast News aired the story, and 24 hours later she had a brand new wheelchair and money for groceries donated.

"I wish we could get the vehicle back," Natalzia said. "But the number of people that reached out to help is heartwarming and awesome."

He was honored today at a ceremony hosted by Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford for going the extra mile to help someone in need.

"This woman, Mrs. Thompson, is a fascinating person," Natalzia said. "She's actually changed my life. It's often easy to become jaded as a police officer and it's stories like this that make it all worthwhile."


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