Police recruit proposes to college sweetheart after Navy Pier graduation ceremony

SHARE Police recruit proposes to college sweetheart after Navy Pier graduation ceremony
SHARE Police recruit proposes to college sweetheart after Navy Pier graduation ceremony

Talk about killing two birds with one stone. How about realizing your dream of becoming a Chicago Police officer on the same day that you pop the question to your college sweetheart?

Gabriel Gamino Jr. certainly has a flair for the dramatic. How else to explain his decision to turn his day at Tuesday’s police graduation ceremony at Navy Pier into their day — by getting down on one knee and proposing to his longtime girlfriend, Gabrielle Thomas, outside the Navy Pier ballroom with Mayor Rahm Emanuel watching the tears roll down the face of his wife-to-be?

“We’ve been together for so long. Today, I figured that it was just going to be a special day for me and a special day for her to remember. I figured today would be the day,” Gamino said.

“Navy Pier is probably one of the best places I thought to do it. Today just worked out perfectly. It just so happens that we were here. The scenery, the background and all that. It just worked out well.”

Gamino, 25, said he didn’t need to be the center of attention on a picture-perfect graduation day. His soulmate has earned the right to share it.

“For about five years now, I’ve been waiting to finally become a Chicago Police officer and she’s been behind me this whole entire road and helping me through my downfalls and everything,” Gamino said.

“So I figured today would be a special day for me as well [as] for her because she helped me achieve this goal that I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid.”

Asked whether Thomas is concerned about the dangers that await him on Chicago streets, Gamino said, “I don’t think so.I think she knows that I’m prepared and that I’m ready.”

Thomas, a 24-year-old manager at Target, took a few minutes to collect herself after Gamino popped the question and Emanuel said, “Mazel tov.”

She might have been the only one at Tuesday’s graduation ceremony who wasn’t in on Gamino’s little secret.

“Completely surprised. I was like — what is going on right now? I’m just taking a picture and this is what happened. This was like, huge. I’m speechless. I’m blown away. I’m the only one who didn’t know. They’re really good secret holders. I can’t believe the mayor was in on it,” Thomas said.

“I was rushing him. I’m like, ‘Come on. Let’s take a picture. This is your day. I know it’s your day, but you’re moving super slow. Take a picture.’ Then all the sudden, things get turned around and I’m like, `What is going on right now?’”

Gamino and Thomas met as students at Illinois State University. They’ve been together for four years.

“I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know when. … It’s gorgeous. It couldn’t have been a better day,” she said of Tuesday’s proposal.

Thomas was asked whether she approaches her role as the wife of a Chicago Police officer with fear or pride or both.

“It’s a little bit of both. But I know I have the support of all of these people behind me. So I know that I’m going to be OK. I’m excited for our future,” she said.

Thomas said danger “comes with the job, but I’m a praying person. So I’m gonna pray and have my family behind me. We’re gonna be OK.”

Believe it or not, Gamino said having Emanuel as a witness to Tuesday’s postcard-perfect proposal was a bonus. It was not part of the plan.

“It just so happened that it worked out. He was there, and he heard what we were doing today. So I figured might as well just have him in there too. It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Gamino said.

During the graduation ceremony that preceded the proposal, Emanuel called Tuesday’s class of 150 one of Chicago’s largest in recent memory. It brings to 1,500 the number of new officers hired since the mayor took office — not to bolster police manpower, but to keep pace with attrition.

The class includes 18 second-generation Chicago Police officers, three third-generation officers and 25 military veterans.

“After 34 years of policing, I would gladly switch places with any one of you to do this all over again,” Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told the graduates.

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