This morning, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation honors a Chicago Police Sergeant and five Chicago Police Officers who saved the life of a man who fell into Lake Michigan after trying to retrieve his dog.
On January 27th, around 1:00pm in the afternoon, Field Training Officer Miguel Del Toro was patrolling the lakefront and learned from a citizen that a man had fallen into the lake.
The officer quickly alerted the radio zone, and witnesses directed FTO Miguel Del Toro to the area of the victim -- 200 feet out on the ice at the water's edge. Officer Adam O’Campo, Officer Brian Richards, Field Training Officer Andrew Larson, Probationary Police Officer Eithan Ferman, and Sgt Alejandro Silva quickly responded. The CFD was notified, but the Officers knew they could not wait as the victim was in dire need of help. The air temperature was 9 degrees and the water was a dangerous 34. While the victim was able to lift his dog to safety, he remained submerged in the freezing water just off the ice shelf.
The victim was quickly becoming disorientated. He was losing control of his hands and feet, and it was obvious to all that he would not survive much longer. Responding Officers O'Campo and Richards, FTOs Del Toro and Larson, and Sgt Alejandro Silva braved the ice over the water and approached the victim. The situation was so precarious, with the ice unstable, that the officers fell repeatedly. Sgt Silva literally put his foot through the thin ice into the water beneath. Several of the officers suffered injuries, though thankfully none severe.
Disregarding their own safety, the officers quickly formed a human chain on the ice at Sgt Silva's direction. They improvised, using a dog leash borrowed from a witness, and were able to reach the victim in the water. They quickly dragged him out to safety. At the same time, Probationary Police Officer Ferman straddled that same dangerous ice shelf and retrieved the victim’s dog, a 9 month old American Eskimo mix. The victim was transported to Weiss Hospital, where he was treated for exposure to the intensely cold water.
While in the lake, his core body temperature had dropped to 93 degrees. In his own words, his hands had become "flipper-like" and difficult to use. He was in water "the height of his head" and he could find no way out. The victim stated "I have no doubt I would have died without help, I am forever grateful to them." Both the victim and his dog, made a full recovery. News of the event, along with the dramatic body camera footage, quickly became a major news story both locally, nationally and even internationally.
In a time when law enforcement faces criticism and second guessing by those who believe they can do the job better, these officers were able to show the bravery and selflessness that police officers exhibit on a daily basis. The actions of all of these officers and citizens who assisted them are to be praised. In particular, Officers Adam O’Campo, Brian Richards, Field Training Officers Miguel Del Toro and Andrew Larson, and Sergeant Alejandro Silva showed exceptional courage and performance in the face of danger to their own safety and well-being. They disregarded this danger to themselves in order to save the life of the victim. It is because of their actions that we are proud to make them our April Officers of the Month presented by Galls.