CENTERVILLE — Even police officers who have seen it all are impacted by the tragedies they respond to, Centerville Police Chief Paul Child says.
That's why Child and his department were emotionally moved when a Farmington family, in their darkest hour after the death of their daughter, reached out to the officers who worked with them in the aftermath of the crash with an alleged carjacker that took her life earlier this month.
Child said the parents of 21-year-old Jazmyn Jeppson, who died after her vehicle was struck by an alleged carjacker in Centerville on Feb. 1, surprised officers with a simple but moving gesture Tuesday by serving them a catered Chick-fil-A dinner during a department meeting.
"We didn’t know that the Jeppsons were going to be dropping by," the police chief said. "It was a very pleasant surprise to see them. It was touching."
Chick-fil-A recently contacted John and Heather Jeppson, asking how the restaurant could reach out to them. The couple asked them instead to put on a dinner for the police, Child said. Officers knew the restaurant would be treating them Tuesday, but they didn't know why.
"We worked very closely with the family throughout this whole deal, and it was an emotional thing, obviously, for the family, but it was also an emotional thing for some of the officers involved," Child said. "We were very grateful to (Jeppson's family). They’re strong people; they’re amazing people.
Bountiful man Anthony Santos Cruz, 28, was charged this month with first-degree felony murder in Jeppson's death. He is accused of carjacking a woman in Kaysville, then commandeering a second car on I-15 after the first vehicle broke down. He allegedly raced through a traffic light just off of the freeway in Centerville, striking Jeppson's vehicle.
Jeppson returned from her mission to Houston, Texas, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just two months before the fatal crash. Family spokesmen have said multiple times that her loved ones have forgiven Cruz.
Centerville police also described the Jeppsons' act of kindness in a Facebook post that drew more than 1,000 likes, dozens of comments and other feedback within three of hours of being put online Wednesday.
"We were humbled and grateful and tried to look like a bunch of tough cops while we quietly fought back tears," the post said. "This case has touched many of us more than we can say. Thanks to the Jeppson family and Chick-fil-A for helping to turn a negative experience into a positive one. These are good people."
Centerville police officers were "emotionally impacted" by Jeppson's tragic death, so it was a rewarding experience to connect with her family, Child said.
"Sometimes we kind of get looked at like we’re not human in some ways, (but) when something like this happens, it has an (effect) on us. So it was a very nice, touching thing for them to come by," he said. "It's very impactful."