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Cincinnati officers get signed Elly De La Cruz jersey for Massachusetts officer shot in brand new Reds jersey

Officers with signed Elly De La Cruz jersey
Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 22, 2023

CINCINNATI — When an undercover police officer in New Bedford, Massachusetts was shot in the face, few — if any — people in Cincinnati knew about it. After all, it's 850 miles from the Tri-State.

But local police and ATF agents knew.

"He was shot while sitting in his government vehicle," says Frank Occhipinti, the resident ATF Agent-in-Charge in Cincinnati. "(He) drove himself to the hospital even though he was shot in the face."

Local officials got word that the officer, Lavar Gilbert, was wearing his favorite player's baseball jersey when he was shot. It wasn't a Red Sox player's jersey. It was a Cincinnati Reds Elly De La Cruz jersey. And it was brand new.

"When he came to, which was much to the amusement of our brother officers out there, (he) was very aware that he was wearing a brand new jersey and he ruined it," said Occhipinti.

Not only was the jersey covered in blood, it was the state's evidence. The Cincinnati officers knew they had to not only replace it, but go a step further and get De La Cruz to sign a jersey for Gilbert. The problem is De La Cruz doesn't sign many items. The Cincinnati officers were undeterred.

What happened next was a series of phone calls to anyone who could help get that accomplished. Friends of friends were asked to help. Strings were pulled. And, with the help of the Reds and some key people, they not only got a signed De La Cruz jersey for Gilbert, Occhipinti says, "From what we hear, it's the first signed jersey by Mr. De La Cruz."

The officers framed the jersey and flew to Massachusetts to see Gilbert's face when it was presented to him. But the generosity from Cincinnati didn't stop there. Dean Gregory, owner of the Montgomery Inn, shipped ribs from his restaurant, Graeter's Ice Cream and LaRosa's to Gilbert, and TriHealth helped make it all happen.

When asked why the Cincinnati officers went to such lengths for a man they had never met, their answer was simple, "We do this all the time," Occhipinti said.

"We do this for our brothers throughout the country all the time and we try to support each other. It's important that we do so."

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