On a horrible night, a police dispatcher’s heroism shines through

When the worst of Chicago was on display, one dispatcher represented our city at its best.

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Chicago police officers stand outside the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office before a procession for a fellow officer who was shot to death during a traffic stop in August 2021. Federal data shows that about 1 in 3 first responders develop PTSD, compared to a 1 in 5 occurrence rate in the general population.

A Chicago police officer rubs his eyes while standing with other officers outside the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office on Sunday, before a procession for an officer, Ella French, who was shot and killed this past weekend.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

If there was a bright spot in the senseless, difficult night last weekend that left police officer Ella French dead and her partner seriously wounded, it was the actions of an emergency dispatcher who brought calm, order and help during the critical moments after the shooting.

A 10 minute clip of police radio transmissions the night of Aug. 7 shows the dispatcher taking command of the situation following the shooting at 63rd Street and Bell Avenue.

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“Two ambulances, two ambulances needed for two officers down, two officers down . . . six-three and Bell. I want a perimeter set up three blocks north, south, east, west of that location,” he says urgently.

Over the few next minutes, the dispatcher relays suspect descriptions, calls for a helicopter search and tells an officer to give Officer French chest compressions as a squad car rushes her to the hospital.

He even had the presence of mind to suggest taking one of the wounded officers to better-equipped University of Chicago trauma center, rather than nearby Holy Cross Hospital.

We’re not shy about taking city officials and employees to task on these pages whenever we feel they’ve fallen down in the job.

But here’s a city worker who appears to have done an exemplary job under the toughest circumstances. We couldn’t let it go unnoted here.

‘I got my job’

An army in blue rushed to the West Englewood neighborhood intersection minutes after French and her partner were shot during a traffic stop.

Emonte Morgan, 21, and his brother, Eric Morgan, 22, were charged with killing French and critically wounding her partner. A judge Tuesday ordered the two held without bond.

Emonte Morgan allegedly opened fire on the officers during a traffic stop. He, in turn, was shot in the abdomen and left arm.

But in a hectic search for suspects and emotions rising among responding officers, the dispatcher became an important hub, relaying information to help capture the shooters and keep the wounded officers alive.

“OK, listen to me: Take that damn vest off right now and start compressions,” he told the officers in a squad car set to take French to the hospital. “Start breathing, whatever we got to do. Start it now. While you’re driving, the officer in the back with her, take the vest off and start compressions now.”

At another point during a flurry of directions given by the dispatcher, an officer radios-in asking for a canine unit to assist in the search.

“I got my job — do yours. Take care of my officers out there,” the dispatcher said.

When officers at the scene of the shooting decided to use their squad cars to take their wounded comrades to the hospital, the dispatcher orders eastbound 63rd and 55th streets blocked off to allow clear passage for the 5 mile trip.

“The [wounded] male officer going to the ER — bring him through the emergency room,” he tells police at the hospital. “And the other female officer [French], please get her in there, guys, make it quick. Be safe getting there, but make it quick.”

The dispatcher’s voice breaks with emotion — momentarily — when an officer at the hospital relays French’s condition.

“Shot in the head between the eyes, both officers unresponsive,” he says. But he quickly recomposes himself, and tells officers at 63rd and Bell to secure the crime scene.

Chicago at its best

In a statement Tuesday, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications said it was “incredibly proud of the actions taken by our 9-1-1 dispatchers” that night and would acknowledge their professionalism at a later date.

“Our focus right now,” the statement continued, “is with our Chicago Police Department family and the families of both officers.”

OEMC hasn’t confirmed the dispatcher’s identity.

But on a night when the worst of Chicago was on display, one dispatcher’s actions represented our city at its best.

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