The Examiner spoke with the family of Bobby Gavin, 21, and his cousin Jonathan Herring, 19, who were brutally beaten over Memorial Day weekend while enjoying a family holiday at their grandmother's house in Wildwood.
Wildwood, New Jersey has a wonderful, bustling boardwalk and lovely beaches, offering a much-needed respite for holiday goers during the Summer months. Sadly, however, with the influx of people, the Jersey shore can also attract a criminal element.
The Examiner spoke with the boys’ grandmother Cecelia Rampolla, Jonathan’s mom Nicole Mastromarino, as well as Deeanna and Robert Gavin, Bobby’s parents, who expressed frustration with the local police, and described the night that would change their life.
The cousins were on their way home from the boardwalk between 1:00 and 2:00 am when they walked past a group Herring described as “five Hispanic men between the ages of 25-35.” One of the men said, "You don't belong here," and asked some "strange questions," as reported first by Sean Streicher of the Cape May County Herald.
The young men attempted to walk away, but instead were both viciously attacked and beaten for no apparent reason. Neither of the boys were robbed.
Jonathan suffered a “bump on his head,” and torn ligaments in his jaw and neck. A teary Cecelia said Jonathan could “only eat soft food for three weeks.”
Bobby’s injuries, however, were quite severe. At the time of the beating, Deeanna and Robert could not get an immediate flight from their home in Florida, so they drove to New Jersey.
Deeanna described her son's physical and emotional injuries (his sinus cavity was crushed as shown in his x-ray [see slideshow] and his left eye is now kept in place by a mesh plate attached to titanium that was screwed into his skull). Before the beating, Bobby was a confident young man who was three weeks away from getting his electrician's license. He was very trusting and “would talk to anybody,” Deeanna said, something that always made her a bit nervous.
Now, his hospitalization and subsequent surgery has hampered his ability to finish school and he has become withdrawn. Kenneth Moton from a local ABC affiliate reported that Bobby also now has "cognitive issues and speech problems" as a result of the beating. Deeanna told the Examiner that Bobby has daily headaches and now his family faces $100,000 in medical bills.
The family of the young men has been frustrated by the investigation, which seems to be going nowhere. After the beating, Bobby and Jonathan managed to make their way back to their grandmother’s house. The next morning, the severity of the injuries was apparent. Bobby was taken to the hospital immediately, while Deeanna's sister, Nicole, brought Jonathan to the police station to file a report.
Nicole explained that the police officer at the station said that over the Memorial Day holiday, there were “two stabbings” and “multiple fights.” The police officer also told her that the boys were "lucky that they didn't get shot or stabbed." The initial interview left Nicole a bit perplexed, as she was only at the station for “five minutes,” and was not asked to sign a statement or even fill out a report.
Deeanna also called the police department and spoke with Detective Gallagher, who told her that "beatings happen all the time.” After all, he said, there were also "two stabbings" that weekend.
Deeanna's call seemed to help, as Jonathan was then called in and interviewed. Jonathan felt assured that the police were doing everything they could to find the men who did this and bring some justice to the family. Due to his injuries, Bobby was interviewed over the phone four days after the beating. He has no recollection of that interview, but as time goes on, bits and pieces of the attack are coming back to him.
The detective told Deeanna that after scouring through surveillance tape, he could not find any video footage of her son. She said that it was a strange thing to say because at that point, he had never seen her son.
The case was assigned to Detective Rivera. When Deeanna mentioned the comment made by the Hispanic attackers that her son and his cousin "did not belong" in the area, he cut her off by saying, "Hate crimes don't happen to white people." Deeanna said, "I couldn't believe a police officer said that."
Deeanna and her family told the police that they wanted to offer a reward for information related to the crime, but that idea was discouraged. The police also told Deanna and Robert separately that it would be a “waste of time” for Herring to come in and look at mug shots. Herring said he was certain that he could identify two of the men if he saw their photos.
Bobby’s dad Robert was distressed over a quote reported in the Herald by Wildwood mayor Ernie Troiano, who said, "I'm not happy about this situation, but this happens in every neighborhood.” He also mentioned that the late hour did not help, as the police department “isn't at full force” at 2:00 am.
Robert said that the mayor should “show a little compassion...rather than shifting blame to the kids for being out at that time of night.”
Grandma Cecelia in particular, is very respectful of the work of the police, as she grew up in a family of police officers. She even expressed concern that the criticism may result in bad feelings from the police officers in Wildwood. Hopefully, the men and women on the force will understand that this family just wants justice.
The Examiner attempted on several occasions to reach Detective Rivera and finally reached Detective Gallagher. When asked for a comment on the case, Gallagher said, “do you know how many cases we get?” After explaining that the goal was to speak with Detective Rivera about a specific comment that he made, Gallagher said, “you guys put whatever you want in the paper anyway.” Detective Gallagher referred the Examiner to the Captain’s office.
Mayor Troiano was a bit defensive about his town initially, expressing frustration that the police department is understaffed, as North Wildwood has difficulty competing with surrounding areas, particularly Camden County, where police officers are offered a higher starting salary. After Troiano was informed of the situation with the family, he softened quite a bit, saying, “you have no idea how much this bothers me,” and said “nothing warrants an attack.”
As far as Rivera’s comment that “hate crimes do not happen to white people,” Troiano said that a comment like that “would not be tolerated” and recommended that Deeanna make an appointment with the Chief of Police. He also offered to speak with the family personally.
To help the Gavin family with medical expenses, click here.
Hopefully, the thugs that attacked the young men will be found and brought to justice.