A 14-year Chicago Police veteran and “awesome awesome SWAT guy” who was nearly robbed of his vision by a tumor five years ago died in a crash early Sunday while off-duty, authorities said.
Officer Charles Barango’s motorcycle was hit by a car running a red light at the Central Avenue exit off the southbound Stevenson Expressway at 2:05 a.m. in southwest suburban Forest View, according to police. Barango, 49 was wearing a helmet. He was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he was pronounced dead.
Forest View Police Chief Steve Good said charges against the driver who ran the red light are pending. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Barango was a tactical officer in the 5th District.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the officer,” Johnson said.
Barango’s family declined to comment Sunday. But on his LinkedIn page, Barango credited Dr. Richard Byrne, a neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center, with saving his life. Byrne said he met Barango five years ago, when a large tumor had wrapped around the base of Barango’s skull and threatened his vision.
Byrne said he operated on Barango, and the officer’s vision came back. He said “it requires a lot of courage to go through the surgery, but [Barango] really didn’t have an option. He was going to go blind.” Byrne also said Barango just wanted to get back to work.
“He was very proud of being a police officer,” Byrne said.
Barango also wrote online that he spent “less than a year” working with the cast and crew of the TV show “Chicago P.D.” Brian Luce, the show’s technical adviser, said he knew Barango “as a highly decorated, awesome awesome SWAT guy.” Luce said he tapped Barango to teach members of the cast about high-risk entries, close quarter combat and room clearing. Barango also taught them how to shoot.
“He taught each and every one of the cast members,” Luce said.
Luce, a 20-year CPD veteran who is on leave, said Barango had compassion and a “very, very big heart.” He also said Barango was muscular and well built, but “he used his muscles for hugs.”
“He’s really, really good police,” Luce said.
Contributing: Ashlee Rezin, Sara Freund