Humanity’s ‘worst and best’ in 24 hours
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 25, 2013 9:42PM
Chicago Police Officers Raquel Castaneda, 8th District and Robert Cavallone, 8th District background; stand behind Raven Barron, 8, Sadie Weaver, 2, standing next to their mom (left; Jennifer Weaver, 33, holding Grace Weaver, 1, Chicago Police Officers pooled their cash to buy the family Christmas 2012 gifts after the family apartment was burglarized. January 25, 2013 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:55AM
Holding a grown-up hand by the finger, 8-year-old Raven Weaver led Chicago Police Officer Robert Cavallone around her small Southwest Side apartment pointing out what had just been stolen by burglars.
“They took my video games and my diabetes medicine. They took my purse. They took the my Cocoa Puffs,” Raven tearfully told the muscular cop, nicknamed Hercules, her mother recalled.
Raven’s mom, Jennifer Weaver, said she told Cavallone’s partner, Officer Raquel Castaneda, about other items stolen from their ransacked home: Christmas presents, rent money, dishes, dish soap, silverware, a digital camera, chocolate pudding cups, frozen dinners, potato chips, milk. The list kept going.
“When I opened that door to the apartment, it was like ‘Oh my God, no, no, please no,” said Weaver, a 33-year-old single mother with two other daughters, ages 3 and 1.
She isn’t able to hold down a job, she explained, because, in addition to type 1 diabetes, Raven has a host of other diseases and needs constant supervision.
Her family, which recently moved on the 3300 block of West 61st Place after living with a relative, stays afloat with the aid of government assistance.
“I had to step out for air a few times,” said Castaneda, 39. “Or else we’d all have been in there crying. And I can’t do that, not when I have the uniform on.”
Cavallone, 32, gave Weaver the money in his wallet, $3, and told her to buy some milk.
The officers concluded their report and left.
“But Cavallone got a bee in his bonnet about that family,” Castaneda said.
The next day Cavallone returned to the house with his other partner, Officer David Falardeau, 32, ostensibly to make sure he’d written Weaver’s phone number correctly in the police report.
“They said they’d be right back, they just had to grab something from the car, and came back loaded down with bags from Target for us, and I just lost it, I started crying hysterically,” Weaver said.
There were handheld video games for each younger daughter, “and then Officer Cavallone turned around and handed a Wii remote control to Raven, and then handed her a Wii gaming system and two games. And they brought pudding and cereal, milk, frozen dinners, hot dogs, snacks, and purse for Raven ... she just started screaming. They must have spent more than $500.”
The three partners, who rotate in two-person patrol shifts, had pitched in to buy the presents.
“In 24 hours we’ve seen the worst of people and the best of people,” Weaver said. “The good tears outweighed the sad ones.”
The burglary and good deed happened in a 24-hour span in early November, but word didn’t spread at the Chicago Lawn police station until Weaver bumped into a police sergeant at a food pantry last week and shared the story.
Cavallone, when contacted Thursday, said he didn’t want to comment. He said he was busy filling out a report.
Explaining Cavallone’s reluctance to chat, Castaneda said, “He feels like he didn’t do it to be in the paper or in this new magazine that the Chicago police has, he feels like it looks staged, he didn’t do it for recognition.”
For Castaneda, nothing really has come close to equaling the experience during her 14 years on the job.
“It’s pretty awesome that we were able to change her outlook on what she thought was something so awful and made her believe there are people who help versus just take advantage,” she said.
Weaver says she will never be able to thank the three officers enough, but she’s trying. She’s already dropped cookies off at the police station.
Up next: lasagna.