You might say veteran Florida sheriff's deputy Donnie Jackson has seen it all.
Before his 16-year run so far with the Broward Sheriff's Office, Jackson spent a decade as an officer with Miami-Dade Schools. In 2003 he saved the lives of two young boys after their car fell into a canal, WSVN-TV reported —
— and in 2005 he survived a scary accident when a truck cut him off and left the scene.
But Jackson was unprepared for what happened to him Saturday morning before beginning his shift.
He walked into a Dunkin' Donuts in Westin and sensed "that all eyes are fixed on me," he wrote on his Facebook page. "I could only imagine what was going through the minds of the people inside the restaurant with all the negativity surrounding law enforcement officials."
After he placed his order — "an iced coffee with a turbo shot and a sesame seed bagel," he told WSVN — he reached into his pocket to pay.
At that moment a little boy standing with his father next to Jackson spoke up.
"The kid said, 'Dad, I'm gonna pay for his breakfast,'" Jackson recalled to the station.
"At first, you know, I looked down, and I said, 'Who's gonna pay for my breakfast?' and then I see the little kid, and I smiled and declined," he added to WSVN.
But that wasn't going to happen. "No, no, he really insists," Jackson remembered being told, adding on Facebook that the boy made up his mind to foot the breakfast bill as soon as he saw Jackson walk through the door.
Why? Because he "appreciates the thankless job you do!" Jackson was told.
"I was totally caught off guard," he told WSVN. "I wasn't expecting it. I told him, I said, 'If I allow you to buy me breakfast, then you gotta allow me to have a picture with you.'"
"It's a good thing I had on my Oakley's because I really teared up," Jackson wrote on Facebook.
After he posted the photo, WSVN said the image went viral.
"You only hear about the bad cops today, but there are so many good ones out there," Trudy Kahn told WSVN.
Jackson had the photo printed and enlarged and made a copy for the kid — including a message on the back thanking him.
On Monday the only issue was finding the boy and his dad — they and Jackson parted ways without exchanging contact information. So the deputy did the next best thing: He left the enlarged photo at Dunkin' Donuts for the boy to pick up, as the family is recognized at the store.
But it appears that through the power of social media — the sheriff's office reposted Jackson's message — the boy's mother reached out and a reunion looks imminent.
The Broward Sheriff's Office noted that the boy's actions inspired other acts of kindness, as a mom stopped by a district office with her son and daughter to deliver cookies as part of the #cookiesforcops challenge.
With the rash of anti-police rhetoric out there — along with cops actually getting refused service at fast-food establishments — those who hear this story seem left with a better outlook.
"Wow that is awesome," Wayne Cox wrote on Jackson's Facebook page. "We all can learn something, even from a small child. Society should take notice on this wonderful act of kindness."
"For the kid to want to do something like that," Jackson told WSVN, "it was very nice, very touching."
Follow Dave Urbanski (@DaveVUrbanski) on Twitter