'I knew I couldn't leave her there'

He talks about it like there was no other alternative to helping this woman out the way he did.

When Newport Beach Police Officer Dave Darling met a woman stranded in Newport Beach last month, instead of just pointing her in the right direction for help, he took it upon himself to make sure she got what she needed.

"I knew I couldn't leave her there," Darling said of the woman he found standing on the sidewalk with all her belongings and not a dollar to her name. "I can't leave her. I knew resources were available."

Actually, Darling could have left her there, with three pieces of luggage outside Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. He could have given her some phone numbers of Orange County shelters and been on his way. But he didn't even entertain the idea.

The woman, Tina Schmidt, 50, from Kentucky, had been having a rough year back there, police said. Her son had recently committed suicide, and she needed a change of scenery. An old flame of hers, a man in his 50s in Newport Beach, had broken up with his most recent girlfriend, Darling said Schmidt told him.

The man is physically disabled and needs assistance moving around, so he gave Schmidt a call because he needed help and they were on good terms. It was the kind of change she needed, Darling said, so she packed up what little she had and took a train across the country, not sure if it was a temporary or permanent move, but she was ready either way.

For a few weeks Schmidt helped her ex-boyfriend; all the while he started to rekindle his romance with his recent ex-girlfriend. Eventually, Schmidt had to go if he was going to reunite with the other woman.

So on Oct. 14, the man secretly packed up Schmidt's things in his truck, then asked her to take him to the hospital under the guise of having a doctor's appointment. After a quick ruse, he got her out of the car and out of sight, he offloaded all of her things on the sidewalk and drove off.

"I was feeling more animosity toward him than she was," Darling said.

In many other cities, police might not have the time, teamwork or resources to help Schmidt out, Darling said. It's different in Newport Beach.

After getting the OK from his commander and making sure other patrolling officers could cover his calls, Darling tracked down an open bed at the Salvation Army's Hospitality House in Santa Ana and drove her there. She stayed there for two weeks until she got her state-assistance check on the first of the month, which she used to take a train back to Kentucky.

Darling said she was grateful and viewed the whole incident matter-of-factly. She gave him a thankful hug.

"I felt bad for her," he said. "We're seeing a lot of people needing help these days."

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