The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation recognizes Andre Van Vegten as its February 2010 “Officer of the Month.”
On the evening of January 7, 1997 while assigned to the 008th District, Officer Van Vegten and his partner responded to a “shots fired” call at 43rd and Latrobe Avenue near the LeClaire Courts public housing development. En route to the scene, the officers spotted a vehicle containing four known gang members who immediately fled northbound on Cicero Avenue at a high rate of speed. Before Officer Van Vegten and his partner could even radio in the pursuit, another vehicle veered into their lane of traffic and they were forced to take evasive action. The officers’ police vehicle struck the center-lane curb and crashed into a concrete planter. They were pulled from the wreckage of their burning squad car by passing motorists just seconds before the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames.
Officer Van Vegten was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. He suffered a collapsed lung, a shattered right femur and a broken rib which had pierced his aorta. The rapid blood loss from that injury left him paralyzed from the chest down and legally blind. After emerging from a six week coma, the officer underwent several surgeries at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for therapy. Since the incident, Officer Van Vegten has undergone numerous surgeries and continues to battle infections and wounds that require months or years to heal.
Andre Van Vegten was born and raised in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, moved to the United States in 1972 and became a US citizen in 1984. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and entered the Education and Training Academy in 1986. He was assigned to the 003rd and 012th Districts before transferring to 008 to be closer to home. Along the way, Officer Van Vegten graduated from the CPD Spanish Language Program and was certified as a Field Training Officer in 1990. He was also detailed to the CAPS-Team for 6 months in 1993 to assist officers of the prototype districts make the transition to the community policing model. Officer Van Vegten currently resides in the southwest suburbs with his daughter (16) who was only three-years old at the time of the accident. He continues to participate in officer safety discussions with recruits who are about to hit the streets. “There is no issue of greater importance than officer safety. As permanently disabled police officers, we are uniquely qualified to do what we can to keep you from sitting where we are. I will continue to put my two-cents in whenever I can.”