Eric Gale jumped into Lake Michigan in January after his dog, Pika, a 9-month-old American Eskimo mix, had slipped on the ice and fallen in.
Then, the 33-year-old couldn’t get himself out of the 34-degree lake water.
“I almost died with my dog, and I really felt imperiled,” said Gale, who had not previously come forward publicly. “I knew that, without help, I couldn’t get out of the lake and I would die there. And seeing these men come over the ridge, I knew I was saved. They pulled me out, and I’m eternally grateful.”
Five Chicago Police officers and a sergeant were honored Tuesday for saving Gale.
Officers Adam Ocampo and Brian Richards, field training officers Andrew Larson and Miguel Del Toro, probationary police officer Eithan Ferman and Sgt. Alejandro Silva were named the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s Officers of the Month for April for having rescued Gale from the water near Foster Beach.
The harrowing rescue was captured on Silva’s body camera and released earlier this year.
“I think we all knew that the situation required us to take action very quickly because of the temperature,” Silva said Tuesday.
Phil Cline, executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and a former CPD superintendent, said the officers disregarded their own safety to form a human chain about 200 feet onto the ice sheet that covered the lake to pull out Gale.
“These officers showed exceptional courage in performance in the face of danger to their own safety and well-being,” Cline said. “They disregarded danger to themselves in order to save the life of a victim.”
Sean Lochran, commander of the Lincoln District where the rescued took place, said the officers have been submitted for the CPD’s Lifesaving Award, the second-highest departmental honor.
“This sort of thing happens throughout the city day in and day out, every single day, without hesitation,” Lochran said. “It is contrary to human nature to run into a burning building if you are not a Chicago firefighter. It is contrary to human nature to run towards gunfire and to throw yourself into jeopardy as these officers did on camera.”