W. Manheim police chief's gesture brings 9-year-old to tears
West Manheim Township Police Chief Tim Hippensteel spent five fruitless days searching for a 9-year-old girl's stolen bicycle.
Katelyn Thompson was inconsolable at the loss, according to her mother, Stephanie Thompson.
"She was devastated," Thompson said. "There was no calming her down."
Then Hippensteel went to the Thompson home on Friday, Aug. 18 — ostensibly to ask Katelyn more questions about the theft — and made the West Manheim Elementary School fourth-grader cry again.
"He pulled this beautiful new bike out (of his SUV) for her," Thompson said. "We were all in tears. ... He touched our family's heart."
Speechless: The pink Huffy girl's bicycle has sparkly handlebar tassels, stylish turquoise accents and pure white tires.
"She was kind of speechless," Thompson said, and Katelyn explained that's because she was in shock.
"I think I got a bonus because of the tassels," Katelyn said.
"I think she was incredibly surprised," Hippensteel said. "She didn't expect it and was extremely happy."
"I just gave that man the biggest hug," Thompson said.
The theft: Thompson told The York Dispatch that she and her husband, Brandon, bought Katelyn her first real bicycle two or three months ago. It was a 20-inch bike, mostly white, with a black seat and purple accents.
Someone stole it overnight Aug. 13.
"It was in our driveway, up against our shed, which is literally right next to our house," she said. "It was brand-spankin' new. That was the worst part."
Thompson said she initially "didn't want to bother" West Manheim Township Police because she couldn't remember the make and model number of the bike. But then she saw a posting on the department's Facebook page about thefts in the area committed by a former neighbor and decided it was "worth a shot" to call police.
Hippensteel told Thompson and The York Dispatch he has no evidence to link the thief, who's now in prison, to the stolen bike.
"I looked around for a couple days and asked around, hoping someone took it and left it nearby," he said.
Followed his heart: But by the time Friday rolled around and he had no leads, the chief said he decided he needed to get Katelyn "wheels for the weekend."
"My heart told me to get her another bike," he said.
Shortly after Hippensteel surprised Katelyn with her new wheels, a few raindrops fell, he said.
"Next thing you know, Katelyn took the bike inside," the chief said with amusement. "She was not going to let it get wet."
Thompson posted photos of Katelyn's surprise on Facebook and publicly thanked the chief.
"People need to see the positive stuff police do," she said. "They don't get positive feedback very often."
Hail to the chief: Hippensteel can be found nearly every day directing buses in front of West Manheim Elementary, making sure everyone's safe, according to Thompson.
He also sat in a dunk tank to help raise money for the local Cub Scout troop, she said. Her 11-year-old son, Christopher, is a member of that troop.
And despite having given Katelyn a new bicycle, he continues to look for her old one, according to Thompson.
"For him to take the time to help my 9-year-old? it's just fantastic," she said.
Hanover-area resident Jane Olsen was one of the people who reacted to Thompson's Facebook post with her own story about Hippensteel.
Special delivery: In 1985, when Hippensteel was a volunteer emergency medical technician with New Oxford Ambulance, he delivered Olsen's baby, she said.
It was the second time he delivered a baby, and conditions weren't optimal.
"There was no electricity in the apartment because they were moving," the chief said. "The only light we had were flashlights."
"Chief Hippensteel is the kindest man I've ever had the pleasure to encounter in my life," Olsen told The York Dispatch. "He not only delivered my daughter, Ashley Ann Shultz/Geesey, but held her in his arms on the way to the hospital. West Manheim is lucky to have him."
Township Manager Marc Woerner said the community respects Hippensteel.
'Compassion' for people: Buying Katelyn a new bike is just one example of the chief's compassion, according to Woerner.
"That compassion carries over to the whole community," Woerner said.
Hippensteel joined the police department in 1988 and has been chief since 2006.
He grew up just south of Cross Keys, he said, so many people in the area know him as a local and trust him.
Hippensteel had hoped to keep the bicycle story "on the down low," he said, but that was not in the cards.
Thompson said her family plans to visit the chief so Katelyn can give him a thank-you note she composed by herself.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.