The 8-year-old daughter of a New Jersey police officer killed in the line of duty seven months before she was born stunned a random cop in a local pizza and pasta shop by anonymously buying him dinner last week.
Mikayla Raji was eating at Villa Borghese II in Helmetta, one of several of the chain's locations in the Garden State, with her mother Friday night when Jamesburg police officer Joseph Quinn stopped by to pick up some food.
When Quinn went to pay, he was told his food had already been purchased. It took some diligent police work, the department said on its Facebook page, but detectives were able to hunt down the person who treated him: Mikayla Raji.
"I asked my mom if we could pay for his dinner, but keep it a secret. I wanted to do it because he works hard and he keeps us all safe," Mikayla told News 4 Tuesday.
As it turns out, Mikayla had seen Quinn walk into the restaurant and greeted him with a hello and a smile, authorities learned. They say she leaned over and whispered to her mother that she insisted on buying Quinn's food.
Mikayla's mom, Mimi Raji, gladly picked up the patrolman's $15 tab.
"I smiled, it warmed my heart," said Mimi. "She has a big heart and she's always thinking about other people, and I thought that was so nice.'
Mikayla had a quick conversation with Quinn before he left -- and it wasn't until later that Quinn knew she was responsible for his delicious free eats.
Mikayla has a special place in her heart for other officers. Her father, Thomas Raji, was a Perth Amboy police officer killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver on Aug. 22, 2008. Mikayla was born seven months after he died.
"It's not easy but you know what, he left me the best part of him, and for that, I'm grateful," said Mimi, who was also a Perth Amboy cop at the time of Thomas Raji's death. She has since retired.
Mimi said her daughter's gesture reminds her of her husband's kindness.
"It says a lot about who she is and it warms my heart because I know I'm doing something right," she said.
Villa Borghese owner Joe Russo says people occasionally pay for police officers' dinners there, but this was the first time a kid gave the recommendation.
"The fact that she knew to do that was pretty impressive," he said.
Jamesburg Police Chief James Craparotta said, "Everyone should learn to be so generous and so giving. The world would be a better place if everyone was like Mikayla."
On its Facebook page, the Jamesburg police department thanked Mikayla's mother for her service as a cop, and for that of her late husband. The cops also extended an open invitation to Mikayla Raji to stop by headquarters whenever she wants.
"This time dinner is on us!" the department wrote on Facebook. "Your dad would be so proud of the person you are. If you ever need us for anything, you can guarantee we will be there for you."
And to thank Mikayla for her generosity, the department says she will lead their town Memorial Day parade, riding in a police car.