SPRINGFIELD -- Twenty-six law enforcement officers from around Illinois received the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor during ceremonies held today at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield. The annual awards, created by state statute, honor law enforcement officers “who have distinguished themselves by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Whether it’s a prowler lurking in a neighborhood, madmen who want to wreak terror in our homeland, or a lost child, our first call is always to the police,” Governor Ryan said. “You are our first line of defenses in keeping the streets of our state safe.”
Eighteen of those honored are Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers. Sergeant Joe E. Barnes, Jr., and Officer Randal Spears were honored for apprehending an individual suspected of shooting two individuals, one fatally. The 16-year-old suspect was subsequently charged as an adult for murder. CPD Officers Mark L. Del Boccio and Edward H. Louis responded to a call of a shot fired where they observed a suspect vehicle. When Louis approached the vehicle, the driver attempted to run over Louis, striking him and trapping his body between the suspect’s vehicle and the officer’s squad car. Both officers opened fire, fatally wounding the assailant.
Chicago Police Officers Daniel D. Gorman, Edward J. May, Sean P. Ryan, and Jerome B. Turbyville were involved in a gun battle with street gang members after arresting a subject for crack cocaine possession. While the officers were questioning four individuals, a shot rang out,
and without any warning, four individuals emerged from an alley advancing toward the officers
in a barrage of gunfire. The officers returned fire, wounding one of the offenders in the leg. Officers Turbyville and Ryan sustained injuries to their arms as a result of the gun battle. A citizen was seriously wounded at the scene, while an innocent victim more than a block away was struck in the back with an offender’s bullet. CPD Officer Eric D. Lee was fatally wounded after witnessing a battery in progress. While Lee was pursuing the offender and three subjects, an armed assailant opened fire on Lee, striking him in the head.
While assigned to an undercover narcotics investigation, Officers Robert Piwnicki and Robert Smith of the CPD were fired at during a pursuit. After observing an alleged drug transaction, the two officers confronted four subjects who split into two groups, each traveling in a different direction. Piwnicki located one of the subjects and ordered him to halt. The offender then pulled a pistol from his waistband and grabbed a small child from the sidewalk to use as a shield. After releasing the child, the offender fled with Officers Piwnicki and Smith in pursuit. After opening fire on the officers, the assailant was shot once in the arm. The offender was charged with two counts of attempted first degree murder of a police officer.
CPD Sergeant Robert Schaefer and Officers Nicholas F. Cortesi, Patrick R. Doyle, and William E. Levigne, were conducting surveillance at a public housing complex known for severe crime and heavy narcotic trafficking. As Cortesi, Doyle, and Levigne began a walk down inside the building to assigned positions, they were confronted by an unknown suspect who fired one shot at the officers and fled. Due to knowledge Schaefer and his officers had of the building, the suspect was located hiding in an apartment bedroom. The assailant was charged with the attempted murder of three police officers.
Chicago Police Officers Clinton Sebastian and Donna Walsh observed a confrontation between two men, one of which was shot in the leg. While in pursuit, the assailant turned in the officers’ direction and shot several times. The subject was taken into custody and charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, along with other charges.
While assigned to a gang and narcotics surveillance, CPD Officer Brian T. Strouse was killed in the line of duty after he and his partners responded to a “shots fired” call. As Strouse was assisting his partner who had stopped several subjects for questioning, an armed assailant opened fire striking him in the chest and head.
Effingham County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert L. Rich and his K-9 partner, LT, were fired upon while pursuing two subjects for possible tampering of an anhydrous ammonia tank. While bearing down on the suspects’ car, several shots were fired at Rich’s squad car, hitting the windshield and lodging glass fragments in his shoulder. Neither Rich nor LT sustained major inquiries during the encounter. Both suspects were apprehended and taken into custody.
Sergeant Michael Murphy of the Forest Park Police Department was honored for rescuing a woman from a residential fire. After receiving an initial call of shots fired, Murphy arrived to find a home fully engaged in flames and an elderly coupled trapped inside. Disregarding his own safety, Murphy entered the residence and was able to locate the unconscious subject from the residence. Once safely outside, Murphy performed a chest compression to start her breathing.
Moline Police Department Officers Bruce Kauzlarich and Patrick Moody arrived at the scene of a house totally engulfed in flames with three children trapped inside the burning structure. Both officers entered the residence and were able to locate twin brothers who were unconscious and not breathing. After crawling out of the home with the children, they were able to hand them over to rescue personnel who revived the boys. Both officers re-entered the building in search of the third child. Unfortunately, Kauzlarich and Moody were unable to locate the infant girl.
Officer Marc S. Bregman of the Villa Park Police Department witnessed a car careen off the roadway and plunge into a large water retention pond. After the driver did not exit her
vehicle, Bregman and another witness dove into the water and rescued the woman.
Illinois State Police (ISP) Trooper Jennifer M. Radosevic responded to a dispatch indicating a vehicle had left the roadway and entered Lake Iroquois. It was unknown if the vehicle was occupied. Upon arriving at the scene, Radosevic dove into the frozen lake twice to ascertain if there were any occupants. Due to the extreme weather conditions, her efforts were suspended until a dive team could arrive. Two other ISP officers assigned to covert units were also recognized for a separate incident.