Aurora patrolman is Officer of the Year
By Romi Herron For The Beacon-News May 25, 2012 3:22PM
Aurora Police Officer Pedro "Pete" Rodriguez in 2002. | File Photo
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:32AM
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 the keynote speaker, Kane County Judge Clint Hull, referring to Rodriguez and the other nominees for the award.
“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.”
Besides Rodriguez, the nominees were Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Hain, Montgomery Deputy Police Chief Armando Sanders, North Aurora Officer Ryan McKiness, St. Charles Officer Steve Heike, Campton Hills Officer Elliot Rose, Elgin Officer Heather Robinson, Huntley Officer Brett Kinney, Kane County Forest Preserve District Officer Rick Splittgerber.
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.
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.”
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.”
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. Earlier this month, Rodriguez received the Officer of the Year Award from the Exchange Club of Aurora.
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.”