The imposing Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. police officer in full riot gear who gets a “free hug” in the midst of riots and turmoil in that city has a Buffalo connection.
The officer, Christopher Frunzi, is from Hamburg and graduated from St. Francis High School in 2002, according to the school.
And he’s just the type of guy to reach out to the public, according to his high school English teacher.
“Underneath the riot gear you have one of the nicest, kindest most genuine kids you’re ever going to meet,” Michael Messore said. “He’s the real deal.”
The video of Ken Nwadike walking up to Frunzi on the street has gone viral, with more than 25 million views on the Free Hugs Project Facebook page. Nwadike started the Free Hugs Project two years ago after the Boston Marathon bombing.
He walks up to the group of officers, and Frunzi motions him over.
“Thanks for being out here and being peaceful,” Frunzi said to Nwadike as they hug.
Messore called Frunzi a good communicator, and said he worked hard and improved in English class.
“In school he was a guy that always had a smile on his face, really great personality,” he said. “That probably serves him well in his job. He’s ideal for what I’m sure any police force would want.”
He recalled a public speaking project in which Frunzi, whose parents owned a bakery, demonstrated how to make an apple pie – and then delivered mini pies to the entire class.
“It was obviously well-received,” Messore said.
Frunzi was involved in many activities and sports, he said.
“I have a huge smile on my face. He really is just an authentic, good person. What you see is what you get,” he said.
In the video, Nwadike hugs another officer before getting some vulgar feedback from people in the crowd. The video continues for nearly 10 minutes, as Nwadike and others hand out hugs.
“The Free Hugs Project is an initiative that spreads love, inspires change and raises awareness of social issues through motivational videos,” according to its Facebook page.