First, a Chicago police chaplain offered a blessing above a set of South Side railroad tracks.
Then, he helped knock on doors belonging to two families, delivering the news that no police household wants to hear.
Now, there is heartbreak again in the Chicago law enforcement community, this time for the families of Officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo, two men who joined CPD later in their careers. Both are also fathers of young girls. And both died in the line of duty Monday, one week before Christmas Eve.
The news from the police chaplain left the officers’ families reeling Tuesday. But Gary’s father, Mike Gary, paid an emotional tribute to his son while speaking by phone to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I’m telling you,” he said, “he was the greatest kid ever.”
Conrad Gary, 31, grew up in Oak Lawn and was also a military veteran, his father said. Before joining CPD only 18 months ago, he spent five years working as a police officer in the Air Force and spent an additional year in the Air Force Reserve.
Gary left behind a wife, Kelly, and a six-month-old daughter, Tess.
“He was a wonderful man,” Mike Gary said. “He was a great father — he was a great father. Adored his child. He was a great husband. And he was a good police officer. He loved that job. He did it for only 18 months, but he excelled at it.”
In West Beverly, police stationed outside Marmolejo’s home asked reporters politely to give the family privacy. Meanwhile, neighbors tied black and blue ribbons on trees. They said Marmolejo, 36, moved in from Evergreen Park about two and a half years ago — around the time he became a cop.
Marmolejo lived in the neighborhood with his wife and three young daughters. He previously worked at Advocate Christ Medical Center, according to a GoFundMe page that has been set up to benefit his family. A similar page has also been established for Gary’s family.
“He was very friendly,” neighbor Kelly Jasinski said of Marmolejo. “He’d play outside with his kids a lot.”
Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, remembered seeing Marmolejo run around the area.
“I’d see him running and then be somewhere else in the neighborhood two hours later and see him still running,” the neighbor said. “He always had a smile on his face.”
Two other Chicago cops and two firefighters live on the same block as Marmolejo, according to their neighbors.
Dorie Kiefer said her son Brendan became close friends with Marmolejo as teenagers after the two met while working at a Brown’s Chicken not far from where they grew up near Midway Airport.
“Eddie and Brendan were a part of this group, sort of an old fashioned neighborhood thing, the kind of friends where you come at one of us you come at all of us,” she said, noting that her son on Tuesday was too emotionally exhausted to talk.
“They were good kids and they all turned out to be good, hard-working people and remain really tight,” she said.
Marmolejo’s wife, Maria, was his longtime sweetheart, Dorie said.
“I remember seeing those two when they were teenagers at mass on a Saturday night, and that’s an age where a lot of teenagers kind of step away from spending time at church, and seeing that made me just say ‘Wow. These are really nice kids,'” she recalled.
The deaths of Gary and Marmolejo bring the number of Chicago police killed in the line of duty in 2018 to four. Officer Samuel Jimenez was killed in a gunfight at Mercy Hospital one month ago— just days before Thanksgiving. Cmdr. Paul Bauer was killed in the Loop in February.
Jimenez and Bauer were also fathers.
The events that led to the deaths of Gary and Marmolejo began around 6 p.m. Monday. That’s when Supt. Eddie Johnson said a ShotSpotter notice sent them to 101st and Dauphin Avenue. When they got there, they confronted a suspect, who ran up to the train tracks at 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
While searching for the suspect, they were hit by a southbound train at 6:20 p.m.
The person the officers had been searching for has not been identified.
Fr. Dan Brandt, the police chaplain who is also a Catholic priest, said he arrived shortly after the train hit the two men.
There, in the cold and the dark, he said he offered a blessing above the set of railroad tracks. Then, he said, some of CPD’s highest-ranking members helped carry the remains to an ambulance, sparing younger officers the anguish.
Finally, before dawn Tuesday, a police procession delivered the bodies of the two men to the morgue.
The lights of their cars bathed the Dan Ryan Expressway in blue and red.
Contributing: Tina Sfondeles
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