Bryan Ferguson of Oregon City stood at the counter of a Caldwell McDonald’s, setting his wallet and keys on the counter as he paid. He turned for a moment toward the beverage station to help his 10-year-old daughter.
Suddenly the man next to him, who had just picked up a to-go order, grabbed Ferguson’s wallet and keys on his way out. He got away.
It was a terrible start to what was supposed to be a quick pit stop before a long drive home late Monday afternoon. But then, as Bryan’s wife, Tina, tells it, the community came to the rescue.
It wasn’t a coordinated community effort. There was no time for that. But independent, spur-of-the moment acts of kindness from disparate individuals combined to give the Portland-area family a glowing opinion of Caldwell.
Caldwell Police Officer Chad Ivie spent about two hours on the scene, first searching for the culprit and then intervening to make sure the Fergusons could get an emergency replacement key for their car despite having lost the required ID. Otherwise the family would be stranded overnight.
A canvassing crew for Rocky Mountain Exteriors spent an hour searching the restaurant parking lot and other nearby areas in case the thief discarded the keys.
A group of senior citizens offered their help and befriended the Ferguson children. When the family finally were starting to drive away, one of that group, John, “runs up to our car with tears in his eyes and hands me a wad of money,” Tina said. “I unrolled it, and it was $50.”
McDonald’s General Manager Gabriel Marquez and his staff offered free food and drink and otherwise did whatever they could to help.
“It was just one thing after another,” Tina told the Statesman. “This town completely rallied for this family that was basically desperate.”
When the Ferguson family pulled up at the Cleveland Boulevard McDonald’s around 4:30 p.m. June 22, Bryan and 10-year-old Makayla went inside. Tina sat in the car with the windows rolled down while son Ethan perused the video offerings in the Redbox kiosk. It was Ethan’s 16th birthday.
McDonald’s surveillance cameras captured the man thieving and leaving, but not whether he got into a vehicle or what direction he headed on foot, Officer Ivie said. The man might have intended to steal the family’s Kia, Ivie said, but Tina was sitting in it.
Tina didn’t see the man run out of the restaurant but said the grainy video showed him to be “a middle-aged white guy.”
Ivie and other Caldwell officers quickly searched the surrounding area but came up empty. Then Ivie went back to McDonald’s to talk to the family, look at surveillance video and help them get back on their way.
Because Bryan’s driver’s license had been in his wallet, the family had a hard time securing a replacement ignition key to help them get home. Ivie called the local Kia dealer to tell them Bryan matched the car’s registration, but the dealer needed documentation.
So, with about a 20-minute window before the dealer’s closing time, Ivie used the vehicle registration to get computer access to Bryan’s license and hurried to the police station so he could fax it to the dealer before 6 p.m.
“At 5:58 p.m. I talked to the parts department” and secured the key, Ivie said. The worker stayed a little late so Tina’s brother, who lives in Nampa, could pick it up and deliver it to the family in Caldwell.
Ivie, whose shift had ended about a half-hour earlier, headed home after the arrangements were made.
“I just shook their hands and said I hope their experience in Caldwell wasn’t most memorable for the stress,” he said.
“The greatest blessing for our family was this police officer,” Tina said. “He was amazing.”
CPD Patrol Lt. Devin Riley wasn’t surprised by that assessment, calling Ivie “one of my best officers that goes out there and goes the extra mile.”
“I didn’t want this to reflect on the community,” Ivie said.
“It’s fun to catch bad guys, but that’s not all of our job,” he said. “Our job is to do good things for good people.”
McDonald’s General Manager Marquez also said helping the family was just part of his job: “It’s nothing to brag about.”
“We run into situations like this, but not as bad, all the time,” he said. “We just try to help out.”
The Statesman was unable to locate generous “John” who gave the family $50. Marquez said the group of eight to 10 senior citizens are regular customers and wanted to help the family, but he did not know they gave the Fergusons money.
Cody Heck, canvasser from Rocky Mountain Exteriors, said he and his crew were taking a lunch break when “we saw this lady, frightened, running back and forth to her car, getting her insurance information.”
“So I went out there ... ‘ma’am, is there anything we can do for you? Do you need a ride or anything?’ ”
Heck said he and crew members Harold Nelson and Chris Samuelson spent about an hour searching for Bryan’s keys.
He and Ivie both said the Fergusons’ grace under stressful circumstances made it easy to want to go above and beyond.
“I give them all the blessings in the world for how well they took it,” Heck said. “Man, if I had an SUV I would have took them home to Portland.”
When it looked like the family might be stranded in Canyon County for the night, Ivie offered to let them stay at his house, Tina said.
The officer sounded slightly embarrassed when a reporter asked about that.
“Yeah, I told them I’ve got plenty of room,” Ivie said. “I’d offer my house to them, absolutely. They were nice people, and they were in a tight spot.”