The story of how two Elgin police officers helped a young girl who they discovered was living alone and out of food while attending high school is sweeping social media.
A video that was posted by the Elgin Police Department earlier this month has been watched more than 4.1 million times and shared by thousands. It recaps the story of Officers Kevin Snow and Hector Gutierrez, who stepped in after an apartment manager expressed concerns that a teen had been living without parents in her building.
The officers who responded to the call from the apartment manager said they believed the girl’s mother was dealing with addiction issues and neither parent was available for the child. The apartment manager told authorities she had seen the girl entering and leaving on her own on the building’s cameras but that she had not seen a parent.
“We found out that dad was not in the picture and mom was not in the picture,” Snow said in the video. “There are situations out there in which people get addicted to drugs or alcohol. In this situation, we believe mom was dealing with her own addictions and was not on the property. “
The teen had been using a Link card for food, but the funds had run out and she was living alone for an “extended period of time,” Snow said.
“She was coming to school and she was a good student. We believe she was coming to school because they give out free lunch for kids that need it,” Snow said in the video. “That was really eye opening. I never realized that, for one thing, a kid going to high school, so many things going on - trying to be popular, trying to fit in, trying to do well in school, pressures at home - and this girl went to school every day, didn’t complain to any teacher, basically raised herself for an extended period of time.”
The officers contacted the Department of Children and Family Services and found a sister who was living out of town. The sister came to Elgin when she learned what was happening and Snow took them to a community shelter to get food.
“They had really hard bread there and I thought to myself, ‘I wouldn’t want my kid to have hard bread,’” he said.
Both officers Snow and Gutierrez spent their own money and time to make sure the girl was cared for, according to the video. They bought her luggage so she would have something to carry her belongings in as she moved in with relatives.
“This video illustrates one of so many things that EPD employees do quietly behind the scenes and that I see every day,” Chief Ana Lalley wrote in the post. “While we do share many of the big things that happen and much of our outreach on social media, there are cases you don’t see that impact each one of us on a different level.”