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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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Deputy pays for stranded couple's hotel room

Deputy pays for stranded couple's hotel room

HOUMA, La. (AP) — When Terrebonne sheriff's deputy Julio Escobar saw a homeless couple and their dog sleeping outside of an abandoned building in Houma on the night of Nov. 28, he knew he couldn't just leave them there.

Temperatures were plummeting, and the area wasn't the safest place to be.

"I stopped by the old Twin Peaks building and saw this couple that was staying out there," Escobar said. "I told them to be careful of that area because we had a robbery just next door. As I talked to them they told me they were stranded here and wanted to get back home to West Monroe."

Having a soft spot for dogs, the 24-year-old deputy took it upon himself to find a hotel room for the couple. After searching the area for a hotel that accepted pets, Escobar negotiated with the manager at the Economy Inn at 224 S. Hollywood Road and paid for the room with money out of his own pocket.

"I told the manager if the dog tears something up I would fix it," Escobar said. "I have a dog at home that I consider to be like my child. It just really hit a soft spot."

The couple, Lindy Berg and James Beall, had been stranded for several days in Houma after hitchhiking from West Monroe to find offshore work.

"A buddy of his told us about working offshore, so we just hitchhiked down here from West Monroe only to learn that only 10 oil rigs were working out of 300," Berg said in a recent interview. "Now we're just trying to get back home."

The couple said they rescued the yellow lab on Father's Day while on the road after finding the dog suffering from a gunshot wound. Since they couldn't afford a veterinarian, Berg and Beall used Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, gauze and duct tape to nurse the animal back to health. They then decided to adopt the dog as their road companion.

The couple was forced to decline charitable offers for bus tickets because the dog isn't allowed to ride public transit, they said.

At first Beall was a little hesitant to talk to the deputy but gradually let his guard down, Escobar said.

"You can tell he may have had a bad experience with law enforcement in the past, but you could also tell he wasn't a bad guy," said Escobar, who's been with the Sheriff's Office since 2011. "He wasn't a drug addict or an alcoholic. He was just a guy who was down on his luck. They spent the last of their money on dog food, and it was getting really cold that night."

The deputy went back to where the Twin Peaks building was at, and told the couple they would not be sleeping at some cold and abandoned restaurant on his watch.

"When I told them I got them a room the guy just kind of looked at me," Escobar said. "You can tell he was shocked. He said, 'Man, you don't have to do that. There's no way for me to repay you.' I told him I wasn't looking to get repaid. I enjoy helping people out. I'm still doing my job as a deputy by keeping them safe. I wouldn't have to be worried about someone coming to rob them."

The deputy called his lieutenant to help give the couple and their dog a lift to their new lodgings. Escobar gave them his card and told them to call him if they needed anything else and went on about his day.

When the deputy checked in on the couple the next day they were gone. Although he never saw them again, he learned from the front desk clerk the couple had left behind a note before they checked out. Written on a small piece of paper were the words "thank you."

The message was short but its significance was enormous for the veteran deputy.

"As law enforcement officers, we see the worst in human beings and you've got to find a way to balance out the good and the bad," Escobar said. "No matter how much negativity you see you need to bring some positivity into it because that negativity will absorb you."