Editorials

Homeless man left store with one thing thieves lost

Jesse Harris Jr. was tracked down by Pascagoula police Lt. Darren Versiga after surveillance video revealed Harris had taken nothing from an untended store. Versiga bought the homeless man breakfast and gave him a new pair of sneakers to replace the worn shoes he had been wearing.
Jesse Harris Jr. was tracked down by Pascagoula police Lt. Darren Versiga after surveillance video revealed Harris had taken nothing from an untended store. Versiga bought the homeless man breakfast and gave him a new pair of sneakers to replace the worn shoes he had been wearing.

Jesse Harris Jr. likely will never be a household name. But for a couple of days, he was something of a celebrity in South Mississippi.

And all he had to do was do the right thing.

Harris is homeless. Pretty much everything he owns is in the bags he totes on the streets of Pascagoula.

But when he had a chance to add to his belongings at the expense of a Pascagoula business, he passed.

It was about 11 one night last week when a clerk left a convenience store unattended. In less than an hour, a steady stream of people had walked off with just about anything they could carry — beer, cigarettes, candy. From the looks of the clothes and the vehicles they drove, they could easily have paid.

The one person who walked by that store who was shortest on cash didn’t succumb to temptation. Harris said he stood at the door, marveling at what he thought were the skills of a clerk who could check out people so quickly. Except there was no clerk. But even when he realized that, he just went on his way. Empty-handed.

When Darren Versiga, the investigating officer, played the store’s security video and saw Harris, he figured the homeless man, who was known to law enforcement, would join in the looting.

He was surprised. And touched. So much so, he hunted Harris down, took him out to eat, then took him back to his own house to pick up a pair of shoes.

Now Versiga is hunting several others down. He’s looking for other people in that video. And when he finds them, they’ll probably wish they were in Harris’ shoes.

Sure, they got a couple of handfuls of cheap merchandise. They’ll likely get something else: The label “convicted thief.”

And Harris? Harris left that store with something more valuable than anything he could have carted off. His integrity.

We’d like to think Harris represents the majority of us. We know he represents the best of us.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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