Honored for dedication, bravery
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News May 25, 2012 1:52PM
Chief Gregory S. Thomas, left, nominated Officer Pedro Rodriguez for the 35th Annual Louis Spuhler Kane County Officer of the Year Award.
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:22AM
BATAVIA — The second time in his career he ever fired a gun at a civilian, Officer Pedro Rodriguez stepped between a gunman and the assailant’s intended victim.
The Aurora patrolman was honored Thursday night for that act of valor as the Louis Spuhler Kane County Officer of the Year. He was joined by eight other nominees from throughout the county whose extraordinary efforts included preventing a suicide, arresting a sexual predator, and the largest heroin bust in the county’s history.
“You are the top 1 percent of law enforcement,” said keynote speaker Circuit Court Judge Clint Hull, referring to Rodriguez, Campton Hills Officer Elliot Rose, Elgin Officer Heather Robinson, Huntley Officer Brett Kinney, Kane County Forest Preserve District Officer Rick Splittgerber, Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Hain, Montgomery Deputy Police Chief Armando Sanders, North Aurora Officer Ryan McKiness and St. Charles Officer Steve Heike.
“In Kane County, there are about 1,300 law enforcement officers,” said Hull. “Of those, only nine officers have been nominated ... you are the top 1 percent.”
Hull, who served as a county prosecutor, said he has long admired how Kane County police officers work together and participate in community involvement. He said the families of the officers — as well as the numerous administrative staff members at the police departments — all deserve to be commended, too.
“I’ve watched you raise tens of thousands of dollars for your communities,” Hull said. “I watch (St. Charles) Chief (James) Lamkin on top of Dunkin’ Donuts every year trying to raise money. I see guys like (Elgin Police Chief) Jeff Swoboda show up at the Boys & Girls Club in Elgin. But it’s not just about raising money.”
Communities benefit when members of law enforcement are involved in community endeavors, he said.
“I think you can see the results,” he said. “The crime rate has gone down ... that’s because of you. You guys do all the extra things.”
Working on cold cases and warrant sweeps are among the things that show the officers’ dedication, he said.
No ordinary day
Of the acts that led to the officers’ nominations from their police chiefs, Hull said, “Nine of you went to work one day and had to deal with (extraordinary) situations based on your instincts, and your training and your experience.”
Elgin’s Robinson worked undercover on a case that involved a man known for preying on women and attempting to abduct. Hull said as part of the operation, Robinson went into the women’s bathroom, where the suspect peered over one of the stalls to look at her. A subsequent interaction at the scene resulted in his arrest.
Deputy Hain spotted a motorist on Interstate 90 who was changing lanes without signaling. During the traffic stop on Elgin’s north side, he noticed her behavior, and determined that some oddly positioned mud on the exterior of the vehicle deserved more attention. Upon searching the vehicle, he found illegal drugs, and authorities said the investigation revealed the driver was transporting heroin from Mexico to the Chicago area. The heroin had a street value of $2 million.
Aurora’s Rodriguez said the thought of firing at a civilian is one all officers dread.
On the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2011, after he had picked up his daughter from school and was en route to pick up his other child, Rodriguez heard a gunshot and saw smoke near a group of young students. He approached the 15-year-old gunman and identified himself as an officer. When the teenager pointed his gun at Rodriguez, the officer fired four times. The teen later died from his wounds.
Visibly emotional upon recalling the incident, Rodriguez thanked all the officers in his presence for their own bravery.
“The last thing (you) ever want to do is fire your gun,” he said. “I did it twice in my career. If I had to do it again, I would, because that is what needed to be done. ... I don’t second-guess myself.”