The auto burglary call came in around 12:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Anaheim PD Officer Dave Garcia, who works on the Resort Policing Team at a substation at Downtown Disney, responded.
A black Chevy Suburban parked in the Paradise Pier parking structure had been broken into.
The thief or thieves had jimmied open the back window of the SUV to gain entry and steal the two third-row passenger seats. There’s a market, cops say, for thieves to sell the pricey seats on Ebay and other online shopping sites.
The Chevy Suburban belonged to a family from Eugene, Oregon that had began their Disney vacation Monday of Thanksgiving week.
Dan Singer, his wife and mother, and the Singers’ three children were getting ready to drive up to a relative’s house in Torrance for Thanksgiving dinner when they discovered their SUV had been burglarized.
In addition to feeling violated, the family was in a real pickle.
Without the back seat, Singer couldn’t safely (or legally) drive his family to Torrance — let alone begin the 13-hour trek back home the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
And since it was Turkey Day, finding a Chevy dealer that was open — let alone one that had a rear seat in stock — was wishful thinking, at best.
Garcia felt bad for the Singer family.
He noticed that Dan, 45, was wearing an Air Force T-shirt and learned he had joined the military when he was 23.
Having great respect for those who serve as well as veterans, Garcia got especially peeved at the notion of some heartless miscreants ruining a family’s holiday vacation.
So he thought, Hmmm…
Garcia, 38, a 16-year veteran officer who spent the first eight years of his career at the Orange PD, is married with two boys, ages 12 and 4.
He’s also the owner of Chevy Tahoe — with back seats that can be taken out and put into a Suburban.
The thought just popped into his head, he says.
“I have a Tahoe,” Garcia told Singer. “I don’t have a problem with you borrowing my seat.”
Singer felt especially upset by the stolen seats. He says he suffers from PTSD and that he doesn’t handle stressful situations very well.
Garcia’s offer calmed him.
The officer drove back to his personal vehicle, took out one of his back seats (Singer needed only one to accommodate his family) and installed it in the Suburban.
Singer and his family — wife Debbie, 45, mother Louise, 71, stepson Erich, 14, daughter Bailey, 4, and son Steven, 4 — then made it to Torrance in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Singer initially planned to get the seat back to Garcia on Saturday, thinking that he would be able to find replacements by then, but he texted him later Thanksgiving night and asked if it would be OK to keep the seat until his family got back to Oregon and then ship it back to Garcia on Monday.
No problem, the officer told him.
Garcia didn’t think what he did was a big deal.
“I’ve had my SUV for eight years and maybe have used the back seat five times,” Garcia said. “Honestly, I don’t think it was a big deal. I was happy to see the seat go to good use.”
As promised, Singer shipped the seat back to Garcia the Monday after Thanskgiving.
Singer later was able to find a set on eBay for $650. A brand-new set would have cost around $2,500, he said. Singer received the seats a week before Christmas from a seller in Texas.
In text messages, Singer thanked Garcia.
One message reads:
I just can’t say how much we appreciated what you did for us. Above and beyond doesn’t come close. You made a bad situation oh so manageable. My family thanks you over and over.
In a message to Singer, Garcia wrote:
It really does make my blood boil when good people are victimized. I wish I could have done more to prevent this from happening in the first place. As one of the Resort Team police officers, I promise I will work with our Disney Security partners to do all we can to prevent this from happening to other families visiting Anaheim.
Garcia initially didn’t tell his wife, Nancy, what he had done.
By Sunday after Thanksgiving, he figured he should mention it. After all, his car seat was due to arrive at his house later that week.
“You did what?” Garcia’s wife asked.
Then she gave him a proud smile.
Singer followed up with a letter to Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada that read, in part:
He (Garcia) was professional and showed great concern and empathy for us. I want to thank you for hiring officers like David Garcia. I could tell by his actions this is more than just a job to him. I believe he truly cares about the work that he does. You don’t always find that these days.