Before he started his first day at Farragut Career Academy High School in Little Village, security guard Romel Campoverde had at least 25 run-ins with police in multiple states.
Some were ordinance violations for disorderly conduct or minor misdemeanors for cannabis possession. But many were not.
There was the time he was accused of pulling a silver BB gun on a man he attempted to rob for marijuana in Chicago. Or the time an officer reportedly found a bag of cocaine after it fell out of Campoverde’s pant leg. Or when the members of a crew breaking into vehicles in the southwest suburbs, including Campoverde, were arrested in Bolingbrook and charged with felony burglary for breaking into a man’s car.
In the 2002 burglary case, Campoverde’s two associates were sent to prison for six years. Campoverde had his burglary charges dismissed, pleading guilty instead to a previous trespassing charge for which he had skipped his appearance in court, according to court records.
The other two men charged in the case were involved in additional car break-ins without Campoverde where audio equipment was also stolen, records show.
The charges in most cases against him were dismissed. But the question remains: How much of his history should Chicago Public Schools have been aware of before Campoverde started working for the district? And if they knew about it, should it have mattered?
‘She Had Been Raped’
His employment at Farragut Academy drew attention when Campoverde, 43, was arrested this year for aggravated sexual assault of a minor, who was then a 15-year-old student at the West Side school.
Campoverde was charged in July with 11 counts of sexual assault and abuse in the case involving the student, records show.
Records say the victim began meeting Campoverde outside of school, and that he gave her money.
Records say he took the girl to his home following prom. She said the two were drinking alcohol, and Campoverde instructed her to use Signal, a private messaging app, to communicate with him in the future, according to police records. She had been communicating with Campoverde via SnapChat, records show, which also would have been against district policy.
Campoverde bought the girl alcoholic beverages on the night of the alleged assault, which caused her to have “blackouts,” according to records.
Police found two of her broken press-on nails by the bed in his recreational vehicle following the assault, which happened a month after prom, the police report said. Records show she said she bought the nails with money given to her by Campoverde.
The victim reported the alleged assault to three people, and police and the Illinois Child Abuse Hotline were notified about the events, records show. The first person she called told her, “she had been raped,” according to police records.
The principal of Farragut Academy sent a letter to parents on July 7 saying an employee had been removed from the school and the Office of the Inspector General was investigating. Campoverde has been released from custody on electronic monitoring while awaiting trial.
Campoverde, who is suspended with pay by the district, did not respond to multiple requests for comment or a detailed list of questions.
His attorney David Will said, “My client is presumed innocent, and he is innocent until a judge and jury decides otherwise.” Will said nothing in Campoverde’s background suggests he would engage in the allegations contained in the indictment.
The Backgrounding Process
The backgrounding process at CPS considers arrests from a 7-year period before a person applies for a job with the district, though applicants are asked to disclose their “complete criminal and child abuse history” before employment.
The process has been updated since the implementation of Faith’s Law, which addresses sexual misconduct in schools. The law adds increased employment history reviews as part of the hiring and vetting process.
These changes are another tool for schools to learn about potential applicants before they are hired.
Before he began work as a senior security guard in 2021, Campoverde had two recent cannabis possession cases starting in 2016, records show. The first in Chicago, following a traffic stop, was dismissed.
Campoverde didn’t show up to the second case after being cited in Lake County. He was found guilty by default judgment in 2020, and had not paid the fine as of Nov. 30, according to the Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office. He also owes money to DuPage County in a 2022 traffic case for which he failed to appear in court, according to records from the Clerk of the Circuit Court site.
In a statement, CPS previously wrote they were not permitted to disclose what was discovered in its backgrounding process. The criminal history section of Campoverde’s application was redacted in a release of public records.
Cannabis possession is not an automatically disqualifying offense for employees of the district. The district is prohibited from hiring an individual if they have committed one of a list of identified offenses, according to CPS.
The backgrounding process for criminal history only includes charges reported to the state crime data reporting program by local law enforcement agencies, and other crimes that reach the FBI databases. CPS applications request a complete reporting of criminal convictions.
The Criminal Background Committee for CPS reviews criminal histories and child abuse or neglect backgrounds of candidates when identified for almost all positions including security and volunteers, according to district policy.
Information is gathered from fingerprint checks, database checks, child abuse checks, CPS employment history checks and candidate-provided documents, according to CPS.
The committee makes dispositions to clear, deny, conditionally clear or defer decisions on candidates. Decisions are based on factors like type and severity of offenses, time passed, age at the time of an offense and rehabilitation efforts.
The district did not confirm how Campoverde progressed through this process.
CPS did not provide WTTW News evidence that its refreshed backgrounding process was catching more employees and applicants than it might have previously, though the recent suspension of three guards on the city of Chicago’s do-not-hire list provided some clues.
The school district did not provide further insight into whether it had checked Campoverde’s record with the court, or if any records beyond the case disposition were obtained during the hiring process.
There are real civil rights concerns when considering criminal history in the hiring process. Employers, including CPS, must weigh this carefully alongside their duty to protect children in an educational setting.
Officials at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the agency writing Campoverde’s ticket for possession of cannabis and a pipe at the Illinois Beach State Park, and the Lake County Clerk of the Circuit Court, said they did not send the case to Illinois State Police because it was below the A-level misdemeanor threshold for reporting required by the state.
IDNR police don’t handle a large volume of criminal cases, focusing mainly on responsibilities including enforcing wildlife laws along with hunting and fishing regulations.
What’s in a Record
Beyond those two incidents, Campoverde was connected to some troubling cases.
Campoverde was arrested along with another man for aggravated assault in 2000. Reports indicate he and the other man exited their vehicle in Pilsen to chase someone, with Campoverde carrying a softball bat.
Campoverde was arrested for trespass to a vehicle and damage to a vehicle charges in the Lower West Side by Chicago police later the same year, records show. The narrative by police indicates a group including Campoverde had broken into a vehicle and peeled back the steering column.
Police were responding to a report of vehicle break-ins in the area when they arrested Campoverde, who was in possession of a flashlight, screwdriver and pliers, records show.
Campoverde was cited in Pilsen the same year for disorderly conduct along with one of the men from his 2002 burglary case, where police said a gun was thrown out of a vehicle by a juvenile after a crash.
A 2002 trespassing arrest reported Campoverde and multiple juvenile associates were asked repeatedly to leave a person’s porch in Little Village, records show. They refused to do so and were arrested.
In another case, a man said Campoverde approached him in the Ogden police district, asking to buy cannabis. The man said he didn’t have any, then was threatened with a silver weapon in Campoverde’s waistband, according to documents.
A struggle ensued, and the man held Campoverde down until police on patrol pulled up, records say. The man, who thought Campoverde had a gun, claimed Campoverde robbed him of cash, according to the report. Police later determined it was a silver BB gun “substantially resembling a firearm.”
Campoverde was charged with aggravated assault in 2005 in the case, and charges were dismissed weeks later, records show.
In 2006, Campoverde was arrested following a fight that took place at a party in Pilsen a couple of days earlier, records show. Police were unable to send a detective to the scene at the time, and as a result downgraded the aggravated battery charges described in the arrest documents as a simple battery. Campoverde struck a man in the nose with an unidentified metal object, court and police records show.
The following year, police stopped Campoverde’s vehicle in Little Village after smelling “a strong scent of cannabis” coming from the truck, according to the police report. Officers confiscated a half-gram bag of cocaine that fell to the ground when he was searched, and arrested Campoverde, records show.
Campoverde had three different cannabis possession cases dismissed in 2008, records show, and two more in 2010.
Chicago officers on patrol in Brighton Park responded to a call after Campoverde punched a man in the face multiple times in 2010, and arrested him for battery, according to the police report.
Since 2002, Campoverde was found guilty in two misdemeanor driving without a license cases and one cannabis possession case, as well as the Will County trespassing case, records show. The rest of the charges resulted in no conviction.
Campoverde also pleaded no contest in a 2011 destroying state property case in Wisconsin, which is an ordinance violation, records show.
Arrest documents and court records in the assault, burglary and drug cases assert that Campoverde is a member of the Satan Disciples, a gang active throughout the city, records show. Other individuals involved in the break-ins and altercations were also reported to be gang members by police and court records.
The records system for tracking gangs used by Chicago police has been heavily criticized in recent years, leading to its elimination by the police oversight board this year.
Will, Campoverde’s attorney, criticized police records related to gang membership, calling it guilt by association without a recourse to appeal being added to a database. Will said there was nothing gang-related about the sexual assault case, and that none of Campoverde’s criminal history was relevant to his current case.
“There’s nothing in the record that any alleged affiliation of Mr. Campoverde had any effect on his work as a security guard or that he was a part of, or had any affiliation that would affect his work,” Will said in an interview.
CPS did not answer questions about whether it considered associations with gangs when making hiring decisions.
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