Cop replaces toy, saves Christmas


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

It wasn’t just that someone stole a 5-year-old’s Christmas present from a Brownlee Woods front porch last week that upset city police officer Joe Wess.

It was the smirk on the face of the person who did it.

So Wess, on his own, replaced the toy and delivered it Wednesday to a home on Bellfield Avenue. The presentation was captured on the homeowner’s security system, which he later uploaded to Facebook to thank Wess.

Since then, the post has gone viral, shared hundreds of times, including on the Facebook page of a Cleveland television station.

The 27-year-old Wess, who has been on the force for more than three years and is the son of a longtime officer, said he took the report after being called there Monday about the theft, which happened Friday.

The homeowner, Brian Koeppen, showed Wess security footage of the theft of the toy, a Hot Wheels Roto Revolution racetrack. As Koeppen’s children, who knew nothing of the theft, played in the background, Wess said he watched the man take the package and walk off the front porch like he had done something important. Wess said that irked him.

“The guy had a smirk on his face, which irked me,” Wess said. “Almost like he worked 40 hours a week for it.” Wess said the call stayed with him after his shift was over.

“The day after, it just didn’t feel right to me,” Wess said.

Wess said it took him two days to find a replica of the gift that was stolen.

“I felt bad that someone would ruin his [child’s] holiday,” Wess said of his reasoning why he felt he needed to replace the gift.

Wess said Koeppen was very appreciative of the gift.

“He was very, very thankful for it,” Wess said.

Chief Robin Lees said Wess’ story is unique only in that someone caught him on film doing a good deed. He said officers do those kinds of things just about every day, but they are usually not broadcast on social media.

He said there are events such as the department’s Fill A Cruiser, which takes place Saturday from 12 to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of St. Christine’s Church, where officers put the word out that they need gifts for needy families, but more common are the actions of someone like Wess, which often go unnoticed.

As a police officer, Wess said any kind of call where something is stolen is one of the most important calls he can take because people in Youngstown work for what they have and are upset when it is taken for no reason.

“I put myself in these people’s shoes, so when something gets stolen, I feel for them,” Wess said.

“And it could be little things, but it’s things they cherish.”

The suspect in the theft at Koeppen’s home is also a suspect in similar crimes in Struthers, Wess said.

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