How police sent a “suspicious” teen with a broken rake to the Peanut Festival

Officers responded amid concern about a person walking around a neighborhood. What happened next makes for a wonderful story of sharing.
A concerned citizen's 911 call sent officers scurrying to a historic Dothan neighborhood. The encounter with the alarm-causing person was unlike any expectation
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 8:52 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - After a busy morning dealing with the National Peanut Festival Parade on Saturday, Dothan Police officers drew a brief breath. The tranquility didn’t last long.

Someone called to report a suspicious, lurking person.

When officers arrived in the Woodland Drive neighborhood, they spotted a husky individual, but quickly determined he was not as old as he appeared, despite his physical stature.

“Immediately, I could tell (he) was a juvenile,” said Field Training Officer Jimmy Watkins. His trainee, on the force only a few months, quickly realized the same thing.

“Immediately, we walked up to him and said ‘how old are you,’ and he said 13,” said rookie William Taylor.

Upon further questioning, they learned that Mark had walked from his home several blocks away, hoping to earn a few bucks.

It is the reason for Mark’s determination that tugged at the officers’ heartstrings.

“He told us he was out trying to rake up some yards so he could take his siblings to the (National Peanut Festival),” Taylor said, recalling how Mark told him his parents couldn’t afford to send them.

Mark remained persistent to earn enough money to take them, though his rake handle had broken.

“It was very impressive to see this 13-year-old boy out working,” said Officer Chris Watson.

Touched, he and other officers put their heads and wallets together to raise a few dollars.

“The squad came up with just short of $200 to make the festival possible for them,” Watkins revealed.

Their proud supervisor, Lieutenant Sammy Hancock, also got involved, lining up passes and ride tickets for Mark, along with his brother and sisters.

“That one thing that they did is going to make a big impact on a bunch of different people,” Hancock told News4 of his troops.

And the generosity didn’t stop with the police.

When Church at the Crossing learned about Mark, members treated him and his family to dinner before they enjoyed the Festival.

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