Juan Jacinto Jr. was born and raised in Chicago, growing up in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. While attending Quigley Seminary South he discovered a need to serve others. However, he would fulfill this need as a Chicago Police officer rather than a Catholic priest. In August of 1997, he entered the Police Academy. After completing his training, Juan realized a lifelong dream when he received his star at graduation on January 20, 1998. He celebrated this milestone with family and friends and looked forward to a long career.
On the morning of January 25, 1998 Officer Jacinto’s career was cut short. At approximately 0200 hours, Juan and his partner responded to a 10-1 call. While en route, their patrol car was struck by a drunk driver at the intersection of Division Street and Damen Avenue. Upon impact, their vehicle jumped the curb, struck a CTA bus shelter and landed on a planter box. During the crash, the passenger’s airbag deployed sending the microphone mounted on the dashboard at a high rate of speed into Officer Jacinto’s face. The probationary officer was taken to Cook County Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to remove his right eye and the bone fragments from his face. Officer Jacinto was recognized with one of the first Blue Shield awards by the Department in May of 1998.
After multiple surgeries, Officer Jacinto was able to make a full recovery. However, because of his probationary status and his monocular vision, he was unable to continue his dream of being a police officer.
Juan went back to school and completed his B.A. in December of 1998. Still feeling a call to serve, he chose to become a teacher. In May of 2008, he completed his M.A. in early childhood education and is now a preschool teacher at Chicago Commons Taylor Center for New Experiences in the Humbolt Park neighborhood. “I am grateful for everything God has given me and I really enjoy teaching and working with all the three to five-year-old children and their families.”
Juan was married in 2002 and has three beautiful children, Juan (6), Esai (4) and Olivia (2). He enjoys playing baseball and traveling with his family. He is active with the Police Survivors organization and still dreams of how things could have been.
Some members of his family have been able to follow in his footsteps. Juan has a cousin and a brother on the job. In 2000, his mother Virginia, at the age of fifty-five, continued her son’s legacy and became a Chicago Police officer. “My mother is a real-life true hero. She has always been there for me, and when she graduated it was one of the proudest moments of my life.”