BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – A criminal-justice major and aspiring police officer, Amanda Arnold believes cops are the good guys.
Still, when her car broke down on exit 25 off Interstate 95, the most she expected was a jump start and some kind words. Bridgeport police did better than that.
Within hours, Arnold, 25; her 19-month-old son, Kason; and their cats, Piper and Tyler, had a place to stay, a free car repair and extra cash for the holidays.
“This is really like a miracle,” Arnold said two days before Christmas, sitting on the couch of Bridgeport Police Sgt. Melody Pribesh’s Derby home. Pribesh said she decided to offer help as soon as she saw Arnold and her fair-haired toddler.
“I always ask myself what would Jesus do and last night she was my manger story,” Pribesh said. “Her eyes were just so sweet.”
The Florida native was driving home on the night of Dec. 22 from New Hampshire, where she had lived for the past five months. Just before 7 p.m., the engine alert lit up.
Arnold pulled off at exit 25, and her 1991 Buick Park Avenue shut down completely. “I was stuck at an intersection,” she said.
She called 911, and as she waited one man tried unsuccessfully to jump start the Buick. Arnold was crying in frustration when Sgt. Brad Seeley came upon the car.
Officers Ivan Delgado and Mark Martocchio were able to get it towed to a McDonald’s parking lot for free by Cityline Towing and Recovery, and they offered to repair the Buick. Seeley asked fellow officers for donations to buy a new alternator and belt.
“Within 10 minutes we had over $260,” Delgado said. He kept money to buy discounted parts from the Auto Zone on North Avenue and gave Arnold the leftover $110.
It was past midnight when Pribesh called her sister for a cage, blankets and food for the cats, who stayed overnight in the police department garage.
By 2 p.m. the next day, Delgado and Martocchio had repaired the Buick as Arnold looked on and Pribesh watched Kason.
“I’m going to be sorry to see him go,” she said.
Then Delgado handed Arnold an envelope with $180 from additional donations. The young mom almost cried. Money had been tight this year.
“Now I’ll have money to buy Kason a Christmas present,” she said.
Delgado said he doesn’t feel like he’s done anything special.
“It’s not just going after bad guys,” he said. “We have to help people.”