On June 4, 1968, PO’s Edward Simanek #10896 and Ronald Stankowicz #7131 were assigned to the Area 4 Task Force working a mission in the 011th District. The officers stopped an auto for a minor traffic violation at Homan and Harrison. The driver of the auto, Haywood St. Claire, exited and walked towards PO Stankowicz showing his Illinois drivers license. PO Simanek exited the squad car and began to approach the passenger side of the stopped auto. The passenger, Robert Pryor, was lying on the rear floor boards of the back seat. Without warning, Pryor abruptly emerged from the vehicle with a handgun and began firing. PO Simanek was struck in the face and right buttock as the offender made his escape. Pryor then began firing his handgun at Stankowicz who returned fire as the offender fled on foot through a gangway. PO Stankowicz ran back to his squad car, radioed for help and notified that his partner had been shot. He then went to the trunk, retrieved the department issued shotgun and gave chase after the offender. Stankowicz entered the gangway at 3350 W. Fillmore and Pryor pointed his handgun at the officer. Fearing for his life, Stankowicz fired the shotgun once, striking Pryor. The offender fell to the ground and was subsequently placed under arrest.
An ambulance responded to the scene and transported PO Simanek to Illinois Research Hospital in critical condition. The emergency room staff used all of their talents and resources available at that time to stabilize the wounded officer. The bullet that struck Simanek in the face entered below his nose and ricocheted around the inside of his throat before exitiing out the back of his neck. It had severed an artery, sheared his jugular vein and damaged several nerves. As a direct result of the injuries sustained, Simanek’s vocal cords were damaged and he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. His throat was also partially paralyzed and he was unable to consume liquids and solids in an upright position.
In police custody, the offender was transported to Cook County Hospital where he was treated for his gunshot wound. Pryor survived and was subsequently charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery of two Chicago police officers. A further investigation revealed that several days earlier, on 27 May 1968, Pryor was in the area of 350 E. 43rd Street in the 002nd District at 0430 hours. He was observed acting suspiciously by PO’s Robert White and Zenon Pet. The officers pulled their squad over and called Pryor to the car. When he approached, Pryor displayed a handgun, placed it to the head of PO White and demanded that both officers place their handguns on the seat of their vehicle. The offender took both guns and ordered the officers to drive away. He waited until the squad had driven away before fleeing on foot with the two officer’s duty weapons. The handgun which was used to shoot PO Simanek was one of those stolen duty weapons.
A trial was held and Robert Pryor was found guilty of the attempted murder and aggravated battery of PO Simanek and was sentenced to 75 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was released from prison in April 1992 after serving only half of his original sentence.
Following a lengthy recovery, PO Simanek returned to active duty and was assigned to the newly formed Gang Crimes West Section at Harrison and Kedzie. He held an administrative position until he retired many years later. The valor which he displayed, his will to survive, his determination to live and the hardships he endured made him a perfect role model for many police officers. He was a great example of Chicago’s Finest and reinforces the term hero.
PO Edward L. Simanek, Sr. passed away in August 2001. He is survived by his loving wife, Dolores, his children, Edward L. Simanek Jr., and his wife Jeanne, two grandchildren, Edward III and Erik Simanek; Karen (Simanek) Mercado #10896, 018th District and her husband Alan Mercado #3301, Unit 145, grandsons Joseph Edward and Richard Alan Mercado.