A South-sider my entire life, I was born and raised in the Englewood neighborhood and grew up in a police family. At a very young age I knew that I wanted to join the police force like my father.
Following a four year stint in the U.S. Navy, I took the entrance exam for the Chicago Police Department and was accepted at the Police Academy on 04 March 1985. In July of that year, I was assigned to my old neighborhood, Englewood, where I was placed on Captain Joe Mullen’s watch. I was very fortunate because Captain Joe treated us like we were his sons. He always looked out for us and I will never forget having worked for him. After spending sixteen years in the 007th District, I transferred to the Public Housing Section (Ida B. Wells). I would spend three years there before becoming an evidence technician.
On Halloween night in 2001, while assigned to the Public Housing Section, I became the luckiest guy on the force. My partner, Nick Cortesi, and I responded to an “in progress” call of a gang fight at Washington Park in the area of 51st Street and King Drive. When we arrived, we observed two large groups on both sides of 51st Street just East of King Drive. As I had done numerous times before, I exited the squad car and told everyone to disperse. While standing near the front passenger side of our marked patrol car, I was suddenly knocked back by a gunshot to the center of my chest. I looked down at my chest, lost my balance, and fell backwards as two more rounds sailed over my head. I immediately checked the soreness under my vest and realized that it had done what it was designed to do – the vest had saved my life. At this point I was somewhat stunned and realized how lucky I was. Other than a fist-sized bruise in the middle of my chest, I was going to be okay.
My partner was able to detain a witness who observed the shooting and who also knew the offender. The offender turned himself in the next day. He is currently serving an eighty-year sentence for attempted murder of a police officer. This incident could have had a very different outcome if I didn’t have my bullet-proof vest on at the time.
Now, when I observe a fellow officer not wearing his body armor, I am quick to comment and I tell him about my experience.