The thief stole items from an unlocked vehicle in Mission Viejo.
Kopitzee Thornton was upset she had run inside her home and left her black SUV unlocked. By the time she returned to lock it around 9 p.m. on March 22, the thief had made off with some random items:
But it was her daughter, Regan, 9, who especially was bummed.
Gone was her beloved school backpack designed to look like a corgi — a dog breed she’s wild about. The fourth-grader doesn’t have a dog, but she sleeps on corgi butt pillows.
There were markers inside Regan’s backpack, Barbie dolls, a key chain, homework – items she painstakingly described to OCSD Deputy Nawar Alkawadri, who was touched by her sweet personality and enthusiasm and her love for school.
Alkawadri and the trainee who was with him that night also were touched to learn that Regan’s father was away in the Middle East, working on some hush-hush operation as a member of the military.
So, after the call ended, Alkawadri knew he wanted to do something for Regan.
He couldn’t find the exact corgi backpack she had, so he bought a generic one and went on Amazon.com to buy some corgi lining and did his best to make it look legit.
Alkawadri spent more of his own money on markers, papers, a Captain Marvel doll and other items, and then stuffed them into the backpack.
On Friday, April 12, Alkawadri and seven of his OCSD colleagues surprised Regan by showing up at her house with the new backpack.
Her mother was in on the secret.
Regan’s big brother, Jeffrey, 18, was at work but knew about the visit, too.
So did Regan’s father, Steven.
When the deputies showed up just after 7 p.m. on April 12, Kopitzee was rolling video to capture the moment.
Kopitzee told Regan a deputy had come to check up on her.
When Regan peered out the window before coming outside, she was shocked to see seven deputies, and an agency chaplain, standing outside.
One of them, Jeff Flaming, had even brought his K9, Nero.
Curious neighbors were wondering why seven OCSD vehicles, some with their flashing lights on, had poured into their community.
When they saw the beaming girl, they knew all was good.
“Remember me?” Alkawadri asked Regan. “These are my partners. We’re all here to see you.”
Usually very talkative, Regan, wearing a unicorn shirt, just smiled.
“We’re here to replace the stuff that was wrongfully taken from you,” Alkawadri said.
“And we wanted to say a major thank you to your dad. We know he’s in the military, and we respect that. We want him to know that while he is overseas protecting our country, we are here protecting you and your community.”
A neighbor, Janet, walked up.
“You guys are rock stars,” she said to the deputies.
Sgt. Jonathan Daruvala praised Alkawadri.
“He took it upon himself to do this,” Daruvala said. “This puts a human face on what we do.”
After collecting her new backpack and posing for photos, Regan said goodbye to the deputies.
“Please tell your husband we appreciate his service,” Alkawadri told Kopitzee.
He and his colleagues then resumed their patrol duties.
“Many of our deputies served overseas and know the concern for their families’ safety,” said Lt. Quyen Vuong, the OCSD’s chief of police services for Mission Viejo. “We want our service members to know we got their back and will treat their families like our own.”
Regan said history is her favorite school subject.
“We visited Alexander Hamilton’s house and gravesite and Trinity Church,” she said of a recent family trip to New York. “I love to learn about the world’s history.”
Regan also loves to draw.
She wants to be an archaeologist or a police officer.
“I think they’re nice people,” she said of the visit by the OCSD deputies.
Regan recommended that investigators search the dark web to see if her Barbies were being sold there.
Added her mother: “What these deputies have done tonight took a lot of thought and effort. I’m so touched by their thoughtfulness and will never forget the amazing sense of community I feel tonight because of them. We have always held our law enforcement in the highest regard and now, it’s personal. They’re wonderful people.”
For four months, Regan has been practicing jiu-jitsu.
“If they find him,” she said of the thief who stole her backpack, “I know how to backflip him.”