MILWAUKEE -- Sometimes tragedy is like a really horrific wound. Over time, it gets better -- but it leaves a lasting scar. A Greenfield family has such a scar. And after 12 years, the Caliva family is hoping someone with vital information will help them heal.
The tragedy happened on June 12th, 2004.
Mike Caliva was working his part-time job at the Cigarette Depot on 76th Street near Center Street in Milwaukee.
"It was kind of slow going. Just trying to get his own company up and running. It was just something he did to bring in a few extra dollars," Caliva's wife, Mary said.
Surveillance video shows a gunman walking into the store on June 12th.
"At first I don't think that anybody would think that he was disguised -- but he definitely was disguised," said Detective Katherine Spano.
Spano works along side Detective Erik Villarreal in the Milwaukee Police Department's Cold Case Unit.
The video shows the gunman approaching the counter, and handing over some money to Caliva, under the pretense of buying something. When Caliva went to the cash register, the suspect pulled out a gun and pointed it at Caliva.
Caliva walked around the counter -- headed towards the door, with the gunman following.
Caliva was shot several times in the back before falling into the parking lot.
"It's pretty nasty," said Spano.
Across the street in a Walgreen's parking lot, Dean Collins heard the gunshots. He recognized the sound, as he is Brookfield's assistant police chief. Not only that, Collins worked for the Milwaukee Police Department for 33-and-a-half years.
Off duty, Collins pulled out his gun and ran across the street toward the Cigarette Depot. He saw the suspect running and chased him for about a block before the suspect jumped into an awaiting car.
Collins then went to Caliva, and whispered a Hail Mary prayer into his ear. Caliva died at the scene.
Chris Caliva, Mike's son, remembers how he found out -- while at work.
"Detectives pulled me out back and they told me and I lost it. I broke down crying. I didn't think...I thought it was a joke. I didn't know how to take it. It was the biggest blow I had ever been dealt in my life," Chris Caliva said.
Mary Caliva says they were devastated.
"That day is a blur. Those weeks after, it's all such a...you're just so devastated. Your grief is so deep and it's such a shock," Mary Caliva said.
They did not have a church affiliation at the time and Collins offered his church, Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Church. Collins is a deacon at the church and officiated at the funeral.
"That was a divine intervention. God put Dean where he needed to be when he needed to be there because what are the odds that the deacon of a church would be there?" Mary Caliva said.
The two years after Mike Caliva's killing have been a blur for Mary and Chris. They both tried to self-medicate with alcohol and Chris tried drugs as well.
"We knew we had to just pick it up and get on with our lives -- because you don't want this man to be ruining a whole family. He's ruined our family enough by taking our loved one," Mary Caliva said.
They desperately want the gunman caught -- and so do the detectives.
"In this case, there were very specific details -- that the suspect was wearing a very unique bucket-style hat and like, old coveralls or a workman-type suit," Villarreal said.
"This is a case that I think is extremely solvable because we have that video, because we have those anonymous calls. We know that there are people out there that know," Spano said.
That includes the driver of the getaway car.
Mary Caliva does not believe convicting the shooter will bring closure, but it will be bring a certain amount of peace.
"I just don't ever want this person doing this to somebody else. I just want this person to be able to have to stand before a judge and have the judge say 'you're going to take responsibility for taking this person's life,'" Mary Caliva said.
If you have any information about this case, even if you think it is a minor detail, you're asked to contact the Milwaukee Police Department's Cold Case Unit at (414) 935-1212, or the 24-hour staffed number -- (414) 935-7360.