C'mon Get Happy: Policeman Surprises Teen Criminal

posted by Heather White - 

A north side teenager could have been arrested after repeatedly getting caught sneaking into a Skokie fitness center, but instead, the police officer made his day.

Vincent, the 15-year-old teenager is a very good basketball player. He was one of the top rated players in Illinois. When Vincent kept sneaking into X-Fitness, the gym manager did not know that. The fourth day the manager saw Vincent sneak into the gym, the manager called the police. He said it was a liability issue. 

The kid had had a membership, but his mother could not afford to pay for it anymore and it expired. He just wanted to play basketball.  

Mario Valenti, a police officer in the city, responded to the call and, instead of arresting the teen, he offered to pay $150 of his own money for a membership.

After learning about the officer’s kind gesture, the company stepped up and said that the $150 dollars would go toward a two-year membership worth $718, and X-Sports Fitness would foot the rest of the bill. 

Later, they found out the young man would hide in the bathroom stalls just to evade the staff for a chance to play basketball. He is an accomplished player who has gained national attention and is considered an NBA hopeful.

Valenti, who has served on the force for more than two decades, said he would rather have the teen shooting hoops than “being on the street and possibly getting into trouble."

Skokie Police Department spokesperson Eric Swaback told the Tribune it’s important to share all the good stories involving police officers, as “People don't always know about them.”

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