Boston-area man who disarmed robber on CTA train wonders ‘Where’s the love?’
Jean-Paul LaPierre was honored in his hometown outside Boston for bravery but feels a bit “dissed” by Chicago authorities.
Jean-Paul LaPierre would like a little love.
It’s been nearly three months since the Boston-area man disarmed a gunman who was robbing passengers on a CTA Blue Line train. (Video of the incident went viral.)
And he still hasn’t received a “thank you” from anyone at the mayor’s office, the police department or the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
“For a guy like me — I was a drug addict who lived under a bridge for part of my 20s before I got my life back together — so for a guy like me that’s huge,” said LaPierre, 54, who called the Sun-Times to vent.
“Recognition confirms for me that I made the right decisions, and I am trying live a good life ... that I’m on the right path,” he said, adding, after a long pause: “It makes up for what I screwed up.”
LaPierre, who goes by J.P. and manages a self-storage facility, was taking a train downtown to get to the starting line of the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon when he took a gun from the hands of a robber and held the man until police arrived.
“I came home to Weymouth (about a 30-minute car ride from Boston) and the mayor here held a ceremony and handed me a proclamation commending me and gave me the key to the city,” he said.
“And then everyone kept asking me ‘Has Chicago called? Are they going to give you an award?’ And I’d say ‘I haven’t heard from them, but it’s a big city, maybe they’re making arrangements.’”
The matter bugged him, so he called the CTA, CPD and the offices of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to ask if anything was in the works.
He says only someone from the CTA — the transit agency’s vice president of security —returned his call and offered gratitude.
“But it felt like a brush off,” he said, not something official.
“It makes me depressed to be honest with you,” he said.
“If a cop had done what I did, you better be sure there’d be all kinds of awards ... but I don’t even get a card from the mayor saying ‘Hey, it was really nice what you did.’ ... It just blows my mind. Am I wrong to feel this way? I don’t know if I’m wrong to feel this way.”
He said he didn’t hear from the folks who organize the Chicago Marathon either, which is unsurprising, since LaPierre ran the race as a ‘bandit’ — or someone who didn’t pay the entry fee.
LaPierre began running as a bandit 20 years ago because he couldn’t afford entry and was too embarrassed to ask people for help out of fear they’d think he would spend the money on drugs.
“I’ve made some bad decisions in my life, so I get that,” he said.
The Sun-Times reached out to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, the CTA and CPD for comment.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi responded: “Despite his illegitimate participation in the Chicago Marathon, this good samaritan did a noble thing by disarming a dangerous individual and allowing officers to respond to arrest the offender.”
CTA spokesman Brian Steele said in an email: “His efforts and the quick response from Chicago Police helped address the situation without incident.”
A spokeswoman for Lightfoot didn’t return messages.
A spokeswoman for Foxx, whose office is prosecuting the gunman LaPierre disarmed, declined to comment “due to our ethical obligation to ensure a fair process and resolution for the victim in this case.”
Last week, LaPierre, who’s married and has two stepchildren, received a letter notifying him he was a candidate for an award from the Carnegie Hero Fund — a fund endowed more than 100 years ago by famed steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to regularly honor civilian heroes with a bronze medallion and an award of $5,500.
“I called the Carnegie Hero fund to see if someone from Chicago had nominated me,” he said. “But I was told that a search engine is how they found my name.”
LaPierre has felt the warm glow of heroism’s limelight before.
In 2015 he rescued a 1-year-old boy after he’d become trapped in a vehicle that was crushed during a chain-reaction crash.
More recently, he made news in August when he searched for and located a 7-foot python that had disappeared from a backyard in the suburbs of Boston. LaPierre, who owned pet pythons as a young man, volunteered to help.
LaPierre expects to be back in Chicago for the marathon in October. He recently gave up his career as a bandit and will try to run the race as a regular participant.
But he has a backup plan in case he doesn’t get a spot: “I’m going to show up at the starting line at midnight before the official marathon starts and run,” said LaPierre.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify Jean-Paul LaPierre’s plans for the marathon in October 2020.