- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Police activity and radio traffic were unusual in Oxford. Officers had a search underway. You could call it a lambhunt.

“Lamby,” a stuffed lamb, had been lost by his little unnamed girl at Kroger. Her parents sent a photo to Oxford police, almost as a joke, asking if they could help find the child’s prized possession.

“They were on certain roads calling out, ‘Unable to locate,’ and they were out showing people pictures of the lamb,” said Maj. Jeff McCutchen. “It was a fun change of pace for a Wednesday night in Oxford.”

OPD’s Twitter, made famous in 2015 during a smack talk war with Gainsville Police, run by McCutchen and Lt. Hildon Sessums, put out the photo of Lamby, and it lit a fire under the community.

“We have checked Kroger multiple times, the parking lots, everything around it and came up with nothing so far,” McCutchen said. “But we also had the community sending us pictures, saying, ‘We’re at Kroger, we’re on University, we’re out searching.’”

By Friday, OPD tweeted that Lamby had been found and was back at home. The family thanked people for reaching out to help.

“The care and concern for our little girl in her love of her lost Lamby has been such a generous kindness,” the family said in a statement.

As a disclaimer, Oxford is not a town that regularly has a lot of crime, and officials said the search for Lamby did not impede other police duties. As the search continued and it seemed as though Lamby wasn’t anywhere in plain sight, police did what police do: They began to investigate.

“When it looked like we wouldn’t be able to find it they found out the model, the color,” McCutchen said. “They found out the actual item is discontinued, but if we could have found it and had it shipped overnight, we would have had it in her arms already.”

Twitter responded, spawning the hashtag #BringLambyHome. Not only were citizens retweeting and sharing the photo of the stuffed lamb and asking OPD for updates, Oxford businesses rallied, offering rewards for information leading to the safe return of Lamby.

There were rewards offered from a $50 gift card at a sushi restaurant, to a pair of jeans, to a subscription to Oxford Magazine, and the offers kept coming in.

The official Twitter account for Ole Miss Football even offered two tickets to the South Alabama game.

Why all this for a little girl who hasn’t even been identified?

“It tugs on your heartstrings. You have a child or you were that child that lost something that meant something to you,” McCutchen said. “For the community to come together and rally, it brings hope and truth back to what everyone wants to be.”

As one would expect when Twitter gets involved, however, there were also trolls, mostly asking if OPD didn’t have some real crime to chase.

“Most of them weren’t even from Oxford or this community. Most of them when you look at their profile, there are plenty of issues in their own communities that they should be worried about,” McCutchen said. “We’re thankful that’s what we had to do last night. Maybe if they’d get involved in helping out in their own communities, their big priority would be a lamb issue too.”

Why did Oxford Police Department care about a lost stuffed animal simply because someone sent them a picture? Because it’s about community, McCutchen said.

“I kept waking up through the night and reading the tweets and thinking, ‘This is so cool,’” McCutchen said. “I think it’s because our community is unique. In this day and age you want your law enforcement to truly care, and what we’re trying to make people understand is that matters, it’s important to someone. Most of us are fathers, and if that was my little girl’s bunny missing I’d want all the resources possible to find it.”

As of Thursday, an estimated $500- $600 in rewards had been offered for the safe return of Lamby.

“I think for us, this is important, this is the relationship all communities and their law enforcement should have,” McCutchen said. “We can all come together for a goal and make a difference.”

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