(CNN/HLNtv.com) — After a polar freeze hit most of the United States this week, one suburban Atlanta resident went above and beyond to stay on the right side of the law.
The Georgia man, identified by local media only as James, walked a staggering 29 miles Tuesday in single-digit temperatures just to make sure he made it to the Lilburn Municipal Court on time.
James had been issued a ticket after a crash that totaled his car, and he was afraid that a warrant would be issued if he didn’t show up. Fortunately, a Lilburn police officer was there to help make his day a little easier.
Officer Andy Blimline was inside the courthouse when James came in, huffing and puffing from the cold.
“I was just joking with him, and I said, ‘What, did you run here?'” Blimline told HLN.
“No, I walked,” James replied.
Blimline said he was floored to learn that James had started walking from a shelter in Atlanta at 1 that morning. The trek took him about eight hours.
When court let out, Blimline saw James putting on his gloves and preparing for the long walk back home.
“I asked him, ‘Hey, did you find someone to come and pick you up?'” Blimline said. “He said he didn’t have money for a cab, and I said, ‘Well let me pay for you.’ At first he said no, but I told him I wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Eventually, James accepted Blimline’s offer. Some officers who had been standing near Blimline offered to chip in — the 29-mile trip added up to about an $80 fare.
“As he was getting in the cab, he said ‘God Bless You,’ and gave me a big hug,” Blimline said.
The small gesture made a big impact in the community.
HLN affiliate WSB, which reported that temperatures got down to 6 degrees that day, posted the story on its Facebook page, and it netted hundreds of likes. Blimline says his department has gotten calls and e-mails thanking him and his fellow officers for their compassion.
“Everybody here has been really happy with it,” he said.
As for James, little is known about where he came from or why he had to make such a difficult walk. His public defender didn’t show up the day of his trial. Blimline surmised that the attorney may not have known the courts were open despite the extreme weather.
“Since his attorney didn’t show up, [James] decided he just wanted to continue without his lawyer,” Blimline said. “He pled guilty to a reduced charge … which carries a fine of $50.”
If James is able to pay the fine before next week, he won’t need to come back to court — on foot, in a cab or by any other means.
By AJ Willingham