Rockdale County residents receive unexpected gifts during impromptu traffic stops

Blue lights and masks may hide the smiles, but the bird in hand seemed to quickly do the trick as Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett pulled over drivers in a traffic stop only to give those drivers a free turkey.

"You have not broken any traffic laws, but what you have done is allowed the Rockdale Sheriff’s Office to present you with a turkey," Sheriff Levett told one driver who went from terrified to delighted, in a matter of seconds.

The big turkeys were a pleasant surprise to drivers in Conyers on Tuesday afternoon.

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew there were going to be families that would not have all of the things they need to support their families for Thanksgiving," said Sheriff Levett.

In a year marked by the stress of the coronavirus pandemic and the tensions enflamed by deadly encounters with police, Sheriff Levett said he just wanted to just reconnect with Rockdale citizens in a simple, but meaningful way.

"To give back, that makes us feel good. In spite of what people think of us, we're going to get out there and do our jobs and try to minimize the negative that we hear," said Levett.

Deputies also gave away hundreds of turkeys during a food drive at Evolution Cars in Conyers.

"It's not just us. The whole community has suffered and whatever we can do to help the community out is important," said Sunny Pahtia of Evolution Cars, a used car dealership on Iris Drive.

WATCH: FOX 5 Atlanta live news coverage

Turkey recipients said the sheriff's efforts to connect made a difference.

"Every little bit helps out. They get so much bad publicity so right here, it's really good to have them helping in the community," said Rockdale resident Larenda Johnson. 

The sheriff said his deputies are coordinating a socially distant "Shop with a Cop" event for December.

"It's just our way of spreading that cheer to our citizens," Sheriff Levett said.

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.