A girl celebrating her 8th birthday got a surprise from police officers last week in Redondo Beach, after the girl’s neighbor burned her doll during a dispute about the sound of the children playing at the apartment building’s courtyard, police said.
At around noon on Monday, June 15, officers responded to a call of the neighbor dispute and learned that children were playing with new dolls for the girl’s birthday before the neighbor lit the dolls on fire, police Lt. Wayne Windman said this week. The children were not near the dolls when the incident occurred and no one was injured, he said.
“An eyewitness to the event observed the suspect exit his apartment,” Windman said, “with what appeared to be lighter fluid and set the dolls on fire.”
Laura Jeppson, whose daughter was celebrating her birthday, said her daughter was playing with her other neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter when the incident happened. The two girls were being watched by the other girl’s mother, Jessica, when the disgruntled neighbor came outside.
“We were all kind of looking at the dolls, their faces were blackened,” Jessica said of the aftermath. “The hair was kind of melted, they were essentially ruined. They couldn’t enjoy them anymore.”
The mothers said their daughters were devastated, sobbing and confused about what happened.
“They were scared,” Jeppson said.
After Jeppson called police, officers arrived and tried to talk to the neighbor accused of lighting the toys on fire.
The suspect would not leave the apartment and because the incident was considered minor vandalism, police could not do much more other than present a case to the city prosecutor’s office, Windman said.
However, a few hours later, police officers came back to the apartment with more dolls for the two girls. Redondo Beach officers Carlborg and Rubio used police union funds to go shopping for the dolls, Windman said.
“When the police officers came back, it made me feel really happy,” Jeppson’s daughter said. “They took time from their work and did something very kind for us.”
The two girls and the mothers later that week returned the favor, coming to the police station with cookies and brownies for officers. They also wrote cards thanking the officers.
“I loved them,” Jessica’s daughter said of her new toys. “They aren’t the same ones (I had) but I loved them”
Windman, who has been in law enforcement for 41 years, said this was among the most bizarre cases he’s seen in his career. Although there wasn’t a whole lot officers could do that day with the suspect, he was happy officers were able to help save the girl’s birthday.