SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - A San Francisco police officer has taken some of the pain out of an auto break-in for two Texas siblings. His efforts, using his own time and money, will make them very happy.
"When the girls saw their backpacks gone, they just started screaming," Stephen D'Amico told KTVU on Wednesday, speaking from Universal City, Texas, where he is an Air Force officer.
D'Amico's daughters, Katie, 11 and Mary, 8 lost treasured stuffed animals, a rabbit and a lamb, when the family's rental van was broken into last month in Alamo Square.
Visitors flock to the park to see the Painted Ladies, a row of famous Victorian mansions. But all too often, when visitors wander from their cars, thieves shatter windows and steal valuables.
"They were really upset that they lost their best friends and it really moved me," Officer Sandon Cheung told KTVU, at Northern Station, where the D'Amico family filed a report.
"Growing up, I had a lot of friends who were in the military and I saw them come and go," added Cheung.
The officer took it upon himself to search Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay for toys resembling the ones stolen.
Using photos provided by the family, he saw, but rejected many plush toys as not close enough, until finally finding two, almost identical.
Cheung just couldn't forget talking to the girls' father.
"I saw how passionate he was to help his daughters and I saw how sad they were, so I wanted to do something for them," explained the officer.
"Thank you sir, you are a gentleman and a credit to the uniform. " said Stephen D'Amico, delighted to hear about the special delivery package.
In the military, moving as they have, the theft was especially traumatic to the sisters.
"It's really their childhood that was taken from them, the articles that have provided security through the years," explained D'Amico.
The couple is aware that San Francisco racks up stacks of car burglaries daily, and few receive this kind of attention.
"He didn't just say 'sorry about your bag of stuffed animals'," marveled mother Stephanie D'Amico, "and he really tried to understand how meaningful they were.
The break-in itself was over in 20 seconds, and captured on surveillance video.
It shows a stocky African American woman approach the rented van, pause as if to tie her shoe, then shatter the back window and quickly reach in to seize, not only the girls' backpacks, but their grandmother's purse.
The D'Amicos were only away from the vehicle for 15 minutes, and it was mid-afternoon on busy Pierce Street.
The family knew the stuffed animals wouldn't matter to the thief, so they searched garbage cans and bushes for blocks around, just in case they were dumped.
The replicas won't replace the plush toys exactly, but close enough for comfort.
"Children are the future of our world," smiled Cheung, "so we've got to keep them happy!"