CLEVELAND, Ohio (WEWS) - One of the first officers to respond almost three months ago to the house on Seymour Avenue where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were held captive is still amazed.
"Every time I drive by and look at the house. You just – just amazed that, that could be going on at that house and nobody knew," said Second District Patrolman Michael Tracy.
But on Friday, the 15-year Cleveland police veteran returned to Seymour Avenue once more, with a smile on his face for Amanda, Gina and Michelle.
"Today, I think the girls can somewhat try to put this behind themselves. Maybe move forward a little bit, heal. I'm just happy for them that they don't have to go to court. They don't have to see him," Tracy said. "They don't have to relive the horrors they endured in that house," now that Ariel Castro pleaded guilty.
Castro accepted a plea deal Friday that outlined life in prison, without the possibility of ever getting out.
"I think it's the best thing for the community. I think what people don't realize is the appeals cost millions of millions of dollars and this could go on for who knows how long. And I think we need to get this over with. We need to put it to bed and get on with making things better in the city," Second District Cmdr. Keith Sulzer said.
Sulzer has been with Gina's family since day one. He not only expressed his relief for them, but also said Friday's plea deal also came as a relief to many of the Cleveland Police Department members as well.
"These guys, I'm sure they dreamt about this at night. I'm sure they live this still every day and now this maybe will give them a chance to relax and to forget the bad things and remember that there are good things out there."
The three women reuniting with their families and friends now stand as that reminder. These officers said they'll finally get a real chance at healing. However, for the community to heal, both men said Friday, the community needs to change.
"Just look at this case and always think there's hope for missing persons," Tracy said, "that they could be somewhere. And I think, as a community, I think the neighborhoods need to look at your neighbor somewhat like a nosy neighbor. People need to look at each other. If you see something unusual, call the police."
"I have a Facebook page, the Cleveland police have a Facebook page," Sulzer said. "We give all kinds of opportunities for people to tell us what's going on and it just has to come down to people actually have to stop having vigils, stop having rallies and let's do something about it."
The commander explained to NewsChannel5 the rallies and vigils mean nothing if people, including those participating, don't change their behavior towards crime.
Sulzer also discussed how the Second District works hard to remain accessible to the public with various "Night Out" against crime gatherings and meetings held the second Tuesday of every month, excluding December.
The Commander also recalled how Nancy Ruiz, Gina's mother, attended many of these gatherings. He said they will continue to do so in an effort to lead the community in needed change.
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