Tomorrow morning, we honor Chicago Police Officers Andres Cuenca, Felix Batista, Danien Cabrera, Maria Kuc and Cesar Valdez for an incident that occurred while performing a search warrant, a dangerous task that our Officers do without hesitation.
On Saturday March 9th at 7:20pm, Officers Cuenca, Batista, Cabrera, Kuc and Valdez were part of a 25th district tactical team preparing to execute a search warrant on a suspect who was supplying drugs to some of the high schools on the northwest side. The officers announced they were the police and demanded the suspect open the door. When she refused, Officer Cuenca used a battering ram to break open the door. Officer Cuenca rammed it repeatedly but it the door wouldn’t budge. What they didn’t know was that the door was barricaded and there were cameras that allowed the offender to see that the police were trying to get into her apartment. Officer Cuenca hit the door once, twice and on the third time a gunshot came from inside the apartment and struck Officer Cuenca. The bullet traveled into his shoulder, bounced off his spine and remained lodged in his neck. Officer Cuenca lost all feeling and dropped the heavy battering ram onto his foot, fracturing it. He also dropped to the floor and Officer Valdez used the shield to prevent further gunshots from causing more injuries. His partner Felix Batista covered Officer Cuenca with his body while providing cover against further gunshots from the apartment windows. Officer Batista checked Cuenca’s body to identify where he was struck. While the first instinct is to remove the victim from the threat, and retreat from the gunfire, Officer Batista knew that with the extent of Cuenca’s injuries, any further movement could cause catastrophic damage to Officer Cuenca, he argued to keep him still until the paramedics could arrive. Officer Kuc cradled the neck of Officer Cuenca to prevent any permanent damage to his spine. Officer Valdez offered up his Lemart medical kit allowing Officer Cabrera to utilize the blood clotting bandage to stop the bleeding from Cuenca’s shoulder. Finally, the paramedics arrived and took Officer Cuenca to Stroger Hospital where he remained in ICU for seven days. The offender tried to escape but was captured and charged with attempted murder. Officer Cuenca has a long road of recovery ahead of him. He has previously served as a Marine for 8 years with two deployments in Iraq, including one in which his team experienced an IED attack. He survived that attack, only to be shot by a 19-year-old girl on the streets of Chicago.
We honor these officers who represent the thousands of tactical officers who work the streets in plain clothes and do extended investigations to go after hardened criminals. The execution of a search warrant is one of the most dangerous parts of an Officer’s duties, yet they do them every day with disregard for their own safety.
In 2018, the Chicago police were involved in just under 1300 search warrants, and every one of those could have had an outcome like this one. These officers work tirelessly in some of the most violent areas without a thought about the dangerous situations they place themselves in, just to be the police and take a criminal off the street.
They do it because it’s a calling to make a difference. These officers do just that, they make a difference, and we are proud to honor them as our June Officers of the Month presented by Galls.