Chicago-area cop pays for teen's gym membership after responding - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Chicago-area cop pays for teen's gym membership after responding to trespassing call

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SKOKIE, Ill -

A police officer in the Chicago suburb of Skokie is being recognized for how he handled a trespassing call after an area gym called police on a teen who was sneaking in to play basketball repeatedly.

15-year-old Vincent Gonzales was caught several times by the staff at X-Sport gym using the basketball court without a membership. The staff warned him he couldn't be in the gym without a membership, but Gonzales' family couldn't afford the membership and he didn't heed the warnings.  

“We actually caught him a few times until it escalated to this point now,” Pritchett said. “I said 'Hey, buddy, you can’t be in here without a valid membership it’s for insurance purposes,'” operations manager Justin Pritchett told NBC 5 in Chicago

Officer Mario Valenti responded to the call and asked the young man what he was doing there. Instead of taking Gonzales to jail, Valenti asked the gym staff how he could get him a membership.

“I told them I’d rather see him on the basketball court than out on the streets,” Valenti said.

Officer Valenti offered to pay $150 for a few months membership, but because of the kind gesture, X-Sport offered Gonzales a 2-year membership at no cost.

“I just want to play basketball, he don’t want to see me on the streets,” Gonzales said. “I’ve been sneaking in there a lot for a long time.”

When the officer was asked why he didn't just tell Gonzales to leave, he had a simple answer.

“Most cops I know don’t look for that angle, they look for an angle to help people out,” he said.

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