How an Aurora cop is spreading important messages with fun videos
"I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger," Aurora police officer Chris Weaver crooned from behind the wheel of his patrol vehicle a few weeks ago.
Well, not exactly crooned. More like, lip-synced. And he wasn't singing along to The Faces' hit "Ooh La La" on the radio. He was imploring young people to stay safe during prom and graduation season.
Another shift, another video from Weaver, whose almost daily online missives have become quite popular, gathering thousands of views and hundreds of positive comments on the department's Facebook page.
It started inauspiciously Jan. 31, during this year's "polar vortex." Weaver was told to post information about warming shelters on the Facebook page. But instead of writing, he made a video (plain -- no music or dancing).
"It added more of a human factor," Weaver said.
But the ham in him -- Weaver was a theater major in college -- soon bubbled up. The lip-syncing and seat-dancing began.
Whether it is "Girls Run the World" for an announcement about a youth running club, "Celebration" for a trivia contest, or "Born to Be Wild" for motorcycle safety, Weaver can be seen roughly five days a week, mugging for the camera on his department-issued cellphone, mounted to the top of the squad's computer with a "Superman"-themed pop socket. He tries to get it in one take.
Weaver has been a police officer for 17 years, 16 of them in Aurora, where his father was an officer.
"I've always loved helping people," Weaver said.
His Valentine's Day video about self-worth is his favorite. In it, he held up a $20 bill and explained it had value, even if it was crumpled up and dirty. People, too, have value, he said, even if they've had a tough time in life.
Weaver took the $20 bill to buy as many less-than-perfect roses as he could, and then he and another officer gave the roses to residents of a homeless shelter.
"The whole atmosphere there changed. ... That video and that day, the day before (the Pratt factory mass shooting in which five were killed), was the best video, in my opinion," he said.
Serving the community is part of the job, he said.
"You have to be invested in the community" and communicate with people, he said. Doing the videos "is so much fun."
Update on would-be shooter
Last month we told you about Lindsay Souvannarath's bid for a lighter sentence before a Canadian appeals court and her shocking appearance on a true crime podcast.
The former Geneva resident received bad news Wednesday: Her life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder stands.
The three-justice Nova Scotia Court of Appeals unanimously rejected her appeal, saying it was proper for her trial judge to consider her plan to kill people in a mass shooting at a shopping mall akin to the crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism. The judge's assessment that she lacked remorse also was proper, the court ruled.
Souvannarath, now 27, flew to Halifax on Feb. 13, 2015, to meet a man with whom she had been chatting online for seven weeks.
They planned to go to the mall's food court the next day, throw Molotov cocktails, shoot and stab people, then kill each other. A third man would record the event on video.
But someone tipped police to the plot. Her co-conspirator killed himself and Souvannarath was arrested at the airport in Halifax.
The appellate court rejected arguments by her attorney about the "amateur" nature of the plan.
"Being thwarted, as the appellant was here, does not lessen the gravity of her crime or diminish the degree of her culpability," the Honorable Justice Anne Derrick wrote in the decision.
Souvannarath can appeal her sentence to the Supreme Court of Canada. She has been incarcerated since her arrest and is eligible for parole in 2025.
On the move
One of the suburbs' top prosecutors will soon see the courtroom from the other side of the bench.
The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed Kane County First Assistant State's Attorney Jody P. Gleason as a circuit judge in Illinois' 23rd Judicial Circuit, which covers DeKalb and Kendall counties.
She will serve in Kendall and is slated to start June 15.
Gleason spent 27 years in the Kane County state's attorney's office and has been first assistant since April 2009.
She's prosecuted several high-profile murder cases, as well as numerous child sex abuse cases, and served alongside State's Attorney Joe McMahon in the case against former Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke for the killing of Laquan McDonald.
She's also earned two Stars of Distinction Awards from the Chicago Crime Commission. One was for her work prosecuting several cold-case murders involving Aurora gang members, and the other for her role in a multiagency illegal weapons investigation.
"She is one of the most respected prosecutors in the state of Illinois," McMahon said.
"We all will miss Jody personally and professionally, but we are thrilled for her as she embarks on this new chapter in her accomplished legal career."
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