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  Illinois State Police News Release   

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Gov. Blagojevich congratulates 28 Illinois officers awarded with the prestigious Law Enforcement Medal of Honor

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Press Release Date: May 23, 2008    || Archived July 1, 2008

Ceremony honors law enforcement officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty

SPRINGFIELD, IL - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich commended 28 Illinois law enforcement officers who were awarded the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor today during a ceremony at the Executive Mansion in Springfield. The annual awards ceremony honors law enforcement officers who have distinguished themselves by exhibiting bravery at the risk of their own lives.

"It is both a privilege and honor to recognize the men and women of law enforcement who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to safeguard the lives of our citizens," said Gov. Blagojevich. "As officers throughout the state receive this prestigious award and continue to dedicate their life to public service, we will not easily forget or take for granted their commitment to ensure our safety.”

Two of the medals were awarded to the families of officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tommy K. Martin was shot in the face and chest on June 21, 2007, by two armed suspects fleeing from the Illinois State Police after committing a home invasion robbery. He succumbed to the wounds on July 17, 2007. Illinois State Police Trooper Brian C. McMillen was killed in a squad car crash on October 28, 2007, while responding to a call for assistance from the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.

"As we recognize one of our own fallen officers, Trooper Brian C. McMillan, it reminds us of the personal sacrifices law enforcement officers make everyday," said Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. "The acts of bravery and distinction they have demonstrated are a reflection of their deep commitment in providing quality service to our community. It's with great pride that we salute all the recipients for their outstanding work and thank their families for allowing them to serve the citizens of Illinois."

Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, police officers from municipal, county, and state agencies patrol the streets of this state. Each of those officers and their families understand the risks those officers assume. These officers are no exception, they are proud to serve the residents and citizens of this state.

Medal of Honor Award recipients include:

  • Officer Glenda K. Van Horn, Aurora Police Department
  • Officer William J. Sullivan, Aurora Police Department
  • Officer Daniel S. Conforti, Broadview Police Department
  • Deputy Chief John F. Murphy, Champaign Police Department
  • Officer Shannon D. Bridges, Champaign Police Department
  • Officer Sergio Vences, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Jonathan E. Shortall, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Anthony F. LaRocca, Chicago Police Department
  • Detective Patrick B. Johnson, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Pamela Purdiman, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Christopher M. Saladino, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Edgar R. Garcia, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Kevin C. McDonald, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Daniel V. Palenik, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Mathew Baio, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Charles S. Johnson, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Bartell K. Keithley, Chicago Police Department
  • Commander Alfonza Wysinger, Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Craig J. Bady, Chicago Police Department
  • Chief Deputy Tommy K. Martin; Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Trooper Brian C. McMillen, Illinois State Police
  • Trooper Sean W. King, Illinois State Police
  • Officer Richard J. Trafton, Joliet Police Department
  • Officer Michael J. Sheridan, Joliet Police Department
  • Officer Matthew J. Spaller, Maryville Police Department
  • Detective Chad E. LaCost, Peoria County Sheriff’s Office
  • Chief Cliffton R. Metaxa, Round Lake Police Department
  • Officer Kraig M. Kapusinski, Round Lake Police Department

The Law Enforcement Medal of Honor committee, created by statue, reviews nominations submitted annually for events occurring during the preceding year. The Director of the Illinois State Police chairs the committee. Other committee members consist of the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, the Executive Director of the Illinois Local Governmental Law Enforcement’s Training Board, and the following individuals appointed by the Governor: a sheriff, a chief of police other than Chicago, a representative of a statewide law enforcement officers organization and a retired Illinois law enforcement officer.

Additional information about the events for which the award winners were selected follows.

Officer Glenda K. Van Horn
Officer William J. Sullivan
Aurora Police Department

On June 17, 2007, after receiving a call for a water rescue in the Fox River, Officers Van Horn and Sullivan arrived at the site to save two brothers who appeared to be drowning. One victim made it to shore on his own but the other was barely staying afloat. Without hesitation, Officer Van Horn jumped into the river and swam towards the victim. Seconds later, Recruit Officer Sullivan arrived and immediately jumped in the water to help bring the victim to the shore. Officers Van Horn and Sullivan acted quickly and decisively with little regard for their own safety.

Officer Daniel S. Conforti
Broadview Police Department

On July 14, 2007, Officer Conforti responded to a call of assistance from Illinois State Police Sergeant Anthony Hoop with the pursuit of an offender. As Officer Conforti followed the offender through a narrow alley, the armed suspect suddenly stopped and began shooting several rounds directly at him, striking his patrol unit. After the suspect drove off, Officer Conforti, having sustained an injury to his head while ducking from incoming fire, immediately resumed the pursuit. Several blocks later, the suspect slammed on his brakes, took aim, and again fired upon the officer who was stopped directly behind him. The scenario repeated itself once more with shots exchanged prior to Officer Conforti disabling the offender’s vehicle. With additional assistance, the subject was taken into custody.

Deputy Chief John F. Murphy
Officer Shannon D. Bridges
Champaign Police Department

After receiving a 911 call on June 7, 2007, of an occupant of a vehicle pointing a semi-automatic pistol at the caller, Deputy Chief Murphy and Officer Bridges arrived on the scene. As they approached the vehicle, the subject quickly raised a gun and fired once at Deputy Chief Murphy, striking him in the lower abdomen. Murphy returned fire as the armed subject spun around and began firing at Officer Bridges, who was struck in the collarbone just above her vest and fell to the ground next to her vehicle. Murphy continued to deliver rounds at the suspect until other officers arrived to assist. The suspect slid out of the driver’s door and was facing Officer Bridges with the gun in hand when the officer fired at the suspect until he was incapacitated.

Officer Sergio Vences
Officer Jonathan E. Shortall
Officer Anthony F. LaRocca
Chicago Police Department

After responding to an apartment building with a battery in progress on July 15, 2007, the three Officers stood outside the doorway to the second floor apartment attempting to gain entry. After no response, the Officers suddenly heard the sound of a shotgun being pumped from inside the apartment. Officer LaRocca kicked in the door and he and Officer Shortall were face to face with an armed female offender pointing a shotgun directly at them. The offender fired the shotgun and the Officers returned fire. Officers Shortall and LaRocca, having been struck, retreated to the first floor. The subject then began firing upon Officer Vences and another officer. Officer Vences returned fire, striking the offender who fell to the floor. While lying on the floor, the offender began pumping the shotgun again as the Officers discharged their weapons, seriously injuring her and ending the potential for further harm.

Detective Patrick B. Johnson
Chicago Police Department

On May 14, 2007, Detective Johnson attempted to conduct a field interview with a group of suspicious men standing in the street. As the Detective exited his vehicle, one of the men began to run. After chasing the fleeing subject into a vacant lot, another man in the crowd fired a handgun, striking Detective Johnson in the lower back causing major injuries to his internal organs. He was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery to remove the bullet. The offenders were subsequently arrested and charged with attempted first degree murder.

Officer Pamela Purdiman
Chicago Police Department

On September 17, 2007, Officer Purdiman tried to stop two shoplifters at a drug store. As she was taking them into custody, the male offender pulled away, but store employees were able to keep him under control. As Officer Purdiman attempted to handcuff the female offender, she also broke away with the Officer in pursuit. During the struggle, the female offender produced a folding knife, slashed the Officer’s vest, and then stabbed her left hand. The female offender then discarded the knife and attempted to flee again. Despite Officer Purdiman’s injury, she continued to pursue the offender. With responding units on the scene, both offenders were taken into custody.

Officer Christopher M. Saladino
Chicago Police Department

While pursuing a speeding motorist in a high crime area on September 17, 2007, Officer Saladino and his partner lost sight of the vehicle but continued to search the area. Emerging from an alley, the suspect saw the marked squad and put his vehicle in reverse, driving through an alley and crashing into a garbage can. When Officer Saladino approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, the offender again threw the vehicle in reverse, running over his foot and pinning him against a metal pole. Officer Saladino fired his weapon into the windshield killing the driver. Officer Saladino sustained serious injuries to both legs.

Officer Edgar R. Garcia
Officer Kevin C. McDonald
Officer Daniel V. Palenik
Chicago Police Department

While handling a telephone call at the front desk on January 22, 2007, Officer McDonald was approached by a man wanting to talk to him. He noticed the man seemed distressed, so he quickly ended the phone conversation and turned to talk to him. The man then reached into his pocket, pulled out a loaded revolver, and pointed it directly at the Officer. Without hesitation, Officer McDonald shouted, “He has a gun!” and fired at the subject. At the same time, Officer Palenik directed all citizens to get down and fired at the gunman, striking him in the arm. Officer Garcia kicked the weapon from the gunman’s hand, secured the weapon, and placed the man in custody.

Officer Mathew Baio
Chicago Police Department

Officer Baio was leaving Loyola Medical Center on January 5, 2007, when he observed two male subjects attempting to steal tires off a parked vehicle. As he tried to block their escape route, the offenders jumped into a vehicle, struck him, and fled the scene. As a result, Officer Baio suffered serious injuries, including cracked ribs and a punctured lung. One subject was later apprehended as he attempted to steal tires from another vehicle in February.

Officer Charles S. Johnson
Chicago Police Department

While working the District Midnight Violence Suppression Team on May 15, 2007, Officer Johnson and two fellow officers encountered three individuals on the street. As the officers exited their vehicles, the three subjects attempted to flee. Two males were apprehended, but a female subject fled with Officer Johnson in pursuit. When he was able to catch up to her, she turned and put a snub nose revolver into his chest and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, the weapon misfired and Officer Johnson pushed her away and took cover. Despite repeated orders to have her drop the weapon, she again pointed the handgun in his direction. Officer Johnson fired five shots at the subject which wounded her and allowed him to take her into custody.

Officer Bartell K. Keithley
Chicago Police Department

On September 14, 2007, Officer Keithley and his partner went to an apartment building suspected of storing narcotics and weapons. After gaining entry into an apartment that was supposedly vacant, two individuals were found handling suspected narcotics. One male subject attempted to escape and a struggle ensued. Another male subject ran to the third floor where Officer Keithley was standing and attempted to grab the officer’s weapon, resulting in it discharging and striking the officer in the forearm. Despite being shot, Officer Keithley gained control of his weapon and fired three rounds, striking the offender, who was then taken into custody.

Commander Alfonza Wysinger
Chicago Police Department

On June 23, 2007, Commander Wysinger was sitting on the porch at a family gathering when he observed two subjects shooting at each other in the street. The initiator of the incident began running towards Commander Wysinger who immediately identified himself as a police officer and told the suspect to drop his weapon. The subject instead turned and fired his weapon at Commander Wysinger who returned fire, missing the subject as the offender continued running with his weapon in hand. A brief foot chase ensued and the subject was tackled by Commander Wysinger and taken into custody.

Officer Craig J. Bady
Chicago Police Department

While on his way home on May 9, 2007, Officer Bady stopped to purchase postage stamps. Upon returning to his vehicle, he encountered a male subject pointing a semi-automatic handgun at him demanding money. Officer Bady complied and gave the offender $11. The offender then demanded more money but the Officer said all he had were stamps. When the offender took his eyes off of Officer Bady, he quickly drew his service weapon, announced he was a police officer, and ordered him to drop his weapon. After the offender refused to comply, Officer Bady, in fear for his life, fired four shots at the offender. The offender, who had an extensive criminal background, died at the scene.

Chief Deputy Tommy K. Martin
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

On June 21, 2007, Chief Martin responded to a call of two armed suspects fleeing from the Illinois State Police who had just committed a home invasion robbery. After taking possession of two vehicles, the offenders were on the run. Chief Martin positioned himself on the side of the road and activated his emergency lights. The suspects slowed their stolen vehicles and one of the men opened fire, shooting Chief Martin in the face and chest. Despite his injuries, Chief Martin radioed the suspects’ location, description, and the direction of travel. Responding officers began pursuing the offenders who were now in one vehicle. After crashing their vehicle in Arcola, the driver was taken into custody but the passenger fled to a bank holding several citizens hostage for hours. Eventually the suspect freed all of the hostages and was taken into custody. Chief Martin remained in critical condition until July 17, 2007, at which time he succumbed to the gunshot wounds inflicted from this heinous crime spree.

Trooper Brian C. McMillen
Illinois State Police

While on patrol near Illiopolis on October 28, 2007, Trooper McMillen overheard a call for assistance from Sangamon County Deputies who were trying to quell a large disturbance at a bar. While responding with emergency lights and sirens activated, Trooper McMillen encountered an oncoming vehicle driving in his lane of travel. McMillen took evasive action but was unable to avoid a collision. His squad sideswiped the oncoming vehicle which caused his squad car to spin 90 degrees in a clockwise rotation. The squad car then began sliding sideways into the opposite lane of traffic and was struck in the driver’s side door by a second vehicle. Trooper McMillen was pronounced dead at the scene.

Trooper Sean W. King
Illinois State Police

Members of the Zone 6 Methamphetamine Response Team were conducting surveillance on June 14, 2007, at the FS plant in Medora in response to recent thefts of anhydrous ammonia when a vehicle pulled up next to a row of anhydrous ammonia tanks. As the driver started to exit the vehicle, Agents approached the vehicle to secure the occupants when the passenger pulled out a fully-automatic assault rifle and pointed it at the Agents. Agent King discharged his firearm, striking the passenger in the right forearm, left hand, and in the chest which struck a vest the passenger was wearing. Both subjects were taken into custody.

Officer Richard J. Trafton
Officer Michael J. Sheridan

Joliet Police Department

On June 14, 2007, Officer Sheridan was approached by a citizen claiming to have been attacked by a subject with a knife. At the time of the attack, the victim had been holding his young child. After calling for back-up, the officers located the offender with his hands hidden. Officer Sheridan ordered the offender to show his hands multiple times, but the offender continued walking towards the officers. The offender then suddenly lunged at Officer Sheridan, stabbing him in the left side and chest. Officer Trafton pulled Officer Sheridan back, drew his service pistol, and fired one round at the offender. After making sure Officer Sheridan was safe, Officer Trafton re-addressed the offender who continued to ignore his orders to drop the knife and charged toward the officers a second time. Officer Trafton fired one more round from his service pistol and killed the offender.

Officer Matthew J. Spaller
Maryville Police Department

On August 17, 2007, Officer Spaller was dispatched to a residence involving a domestic disturbance. The victim’s ex-husband demanded she give him a gun that was hidden in the house, and when she refused, he threatened to cut her throat with a knife. A struggle ensued; however, the victim was able to escape. As the officer conversed with the victim, he kept a close watch on the ex-husband’s whereabouts. As the suspect started walking towards Officer Spaller and the victim, he reached into his front pants pocket. Officer Spaller then warned him to stop and back off but the man fired twice in the officer’s direction with Spaller returning fire, striking the suspect in the chest and heart area. The suspect was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Detective Chad E. LaCost
Peoria County Sheriff’s Office

As a member of the Central Illinois Emergency Response Team (CIERT), Detective LaCost and his team were activated to respond to the scene of a male subject armed with a shotgun on May 24, 2007. The subject, who was upset over domestic problems, was intoxicated and threatened to kill any police officer who attempted to place him in custody. The subject refused to disarm himself and asked what it would take to get the police to shoot him, all while exiting his residence with the shotgun and creating a danger to residents and officers on the scene. A plan to utilize less-lethal ways of disarming the subject failed after a taser strike was ineffective and a K9 assault failed. After becoming enraged, the subject brought his shotgun to a firing position directly upon team members. Detective LaCost had been shadowing the suspect as he returned to his residence and could see the suspect was not complying with police commands and his weapon was in the firing position. When the suspect appeared to advance on the officers, Detective LaCost fired a two-round burst, hitting the suspect in the right side of his torso. The suspect died at the hospital a few hours later.

Chief Cliffton R. Metaxa
Officer Kraig M. Kapusinski

Round Lake Police Department

On October 24, 2007, dispatch assigned Officer Kapusinski and other officers to respond to the scene of a vehicle reported to have driven into a retention pond. Chief Metaxa heard the call and immediately responded due to the pond’s close proximity to headquarters. Upon his arrival, he observed a submerged vehicle nose down. Officer Kapusinski arrived shortly thereafter. Chief Metaxa then swam out to the vehicle in the chilly water and confirmed the vehicle was occupied by a female in neck deep water. After realizing the door was locked and the female occupant was unable to assist, Chief Metaxa directed Officer Kapusinski to get his expandable baton. The officer entered the water with his baton and a hammer, allowing the Chief to break the driver’s side window with the hammer while Officer Kapusinski used the baton to break the back window. The female occupant was pulled from the vehicle just as it was about to sink in the water and was treated by paramedics.

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