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‘Santa Cops’ Bring Back Family’s Stolen Christmas

United Press International

Several dozen Ft. Worth policemen working on Christmas Eve pulled double duty as Santas, raising $350 on short notice to buy presents for a family whose home was hit by holiday burglars for a second straight year.

Officer Curtis Fortenberry, who works with a police canine unit that examines burglary scenes, organized the gift-gathering for Paul and Diane Hernandez and their two children, who had faced a second straight blue Christmas without presents.

“I was in my patrol car when I heard this had happened to this nice, hard-working couple for the second year in a row,” Fortenberry said. “I thought: ‘This is Christmas, this just isn’t right.’

“We have little computers in our cars, so I got on mine and said: ‘I need money, guys, start digging.’ ”

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Half the Battle

Money was half the battle. The other half was convincing Sandra Harten, a manager at the Sears store at Ridgemar Mall, to open her store at 4 a.m. Sunday so police could buy clothes and toys for the two Hernandez children.

“We stayed up all night wrapping the presents and delivered them to the family about 6:30 a.m.,” Fortenberry said. “It was nice. All I do on my job is look for burglars, and I get kind of tired of it. So I thought it would be good to do something different.

“The fact that this happened two years in a row made it doubly sad. This family doesn’t have two dimes to rub together in the first place. Their kids are 4 and 2 years old, and I have a 4-year-old myself. I can imagine how I would feel if we came home and everything we had was gone with no money to replace it.”

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Fortenberry, a 10-year police veteran, said he doubts if the gifts bought by Paul and Diane Hernandez, who refused to accept any presents for themselves, will be recovered.

‘Deserved a Break’

“We were going to try to get them something, but they didn’t want to talk about it,” he said. “That’s just another thing that made people try a little harder. They’re nice people, and they deserved a break.”


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