Officer helps Modesto woman by paying to repair car window

etracy@modbee.comMay 23, 2014 

Marrya Canales has had her share of bad days. Having lost her mother, grandmother and stepmother to cancer and endured cervical cancer and a double mastectomy because of her risk for breast cancer, she has perspective and that whole “grand scheme of things” nailed.

Still, when her car was burglarized Monday night, it was a pretty crummy day. To add insult to injury, the thief decided to urinate inside her car.

Having just been victimized by society’s scum, the last thing Canales expected was the generosity of a stranger. But the Modesto police officer who took the burglary report surprised Canales by paying nearly $500 of his own money to have the shattered window replaced in her 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio.

Officer Joseph Lamantia said he could relate to Canales. His father died of cancer when he was 13. He was one of three children, and Canales has three children still at home, as well as four adult children.

But ultimately, Lamantia said, “I just felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Canales’ car was burglarized in the parking lot of a business complex at Tully Road and Roseburg Avenue around 8 p.m. The thief found the purse she’d tucked under her seat, which contained her disabled placard, a Kaiser memory stick with all her medical information, and her wallet with credit cards, identification and $700 from the paycheck her husband had just cashed.

He also took a bag of clothing she was going to donate to a women’s shelter and an old blanket she could have used on that cold night.

Canales said that as Lamantia searched a nearby alley and garbage bins for property the burglar might have left behind, she started to worry and wonder what was taking so long.

“It’s miserable cold. ... When he comes back and peels off those black gloves I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no, do I have unpaid parking tickets or did I run over a cat and not know it?’ ” Canales said. “But he puts his hand out and says, ‘I want to shake your hand. I ordered you a new window.’ 

Lamantia told her he paid for her replacement window and installation and made her an appointment at the Volkswagen dealership Friday. He took a while to get back to the parking lot because he was on the phone with a 24-hour emergency glass company trying to get the window fixed that night, but the window for her car wasn’t in stock.

Canales was shocked and grateful. She said her “cheapy” insurance likely wouldn’t have covered the repairs, which cost less than her deductible anyway.

“That is such a generous and kind thing because everyone works very hard for their money,” she said. “He wasn’t condescending, he wasn’t judgmental, he just helped.”

One of Lamantia’s supervisors, Sgt. David Chamberlain, said this was one of many selfless acts by Lamantia. He said every year at Christmas, Lamantia and his family donate gift cards to victims of crime. They have given about 459 to date.

Chief Galen Carroll said Lamantia’s actions are an example of the compassion embodied by many officers in his department. “The characteristics we are trying to instill in our department are ‘people, pride and professionalism.’ ... The ‘people’ portion is everyone is the most important person in the world to someone, treat them accordingly,” Carroll said. “I want people to leave an interaction with MPD saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that,’ in a good way. Lamantia definitely did that with his actions in this case.”

Lamantia also was among seven officers and two sergeants who were awarded the Medal of Valor last week. In January, the men entered a west Modesto home with an armed suspect inside to rescue a woman who’d been shot by her husband.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter @ModestoBeeCrime.

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