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Family of critically wounded officer discusses his struggle to recover: ‘Every win never feels small’

Carlos Yanez Jr. loved working in West Englewood and even wanted to move there, said his father, a retired Chicago police officer. “He said, ‘Dad, there’s so many good people there but they’re scared. They live in fear.’”

Chicago police officer Carlos Yanez Jr. is recovering from wounds he suffered when someone in a car he had pulled over opened fire on him and his partner, who was killed.
Chicago police officer Carlos Yanez Jr. is recovering from wounds he suffered when someone in a car he had pulled over opened fire on him and his partner, who was killed.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Yanez Sr.

Before the traffic stop in West Englewood that resulted in the fatal shooting of his partner and left him fighting for his own life, Chicago police Officer Carlos Yanez Jr. had considered moving his young family to the neighborhood.

“My son’s heart was so gentle that I had to stop him from buying a property there to move in there with his son and his wife because he felt so much compassion for the community and the people,” said Carlos Yanez Sr., a retired Chicago police officer.

“He said, ‘Dad, there’s so many good people there, but they’re scared. They live in fear. They can’t come out at night. Now, they can’t come out during the day. They’re killed in their homes. Through the windows. Through the walls. And nothing happens.’”

The Chicago Sun-Times is identifying the officer critically wounded during the traffic stop that killed his partner, Ella French, with the consent of the officer and his father.

Carlos Yanez Jr. and his wife, Brenda.
Carlos Yanez Jr. and his wife, Brenda.
Foto cortesía de Carlos Yáñez Sr.

During a lengthy and emotional interview, the elder Yanez shared details on his son’s condition and the difficult recovery ahead.

That will include living with two bullets in his brain. Doctors did not remove them because, as his father put it: “They can’t.”

Yanez Jr.’s sister, Nicole Christina, a doctor, is coordinating her brother’s medical care team and sending written updates.

According to her latest messages, her brother lost an eye, is out of the intensive care unit and has some “sensation,” but “no movement on left side of his body or right leg.” He has made “some intentional twitches of movement in three limbs he is not able to move,” she wrote.

“Junior’s sentences are getting longer. Sometimes, his voice gets a little louder. Mood improves when he can twitch a leg muscle. There was a twitch in his left shoulder,” the sister wrote in her 11th update.

A neurosurgeon who is a family friend also weighed in, Yanez’s sister said, and noted “the fact that his speech is advancing is a really great sign. No one can know for sure until we are a couple months into therapy.”

A GoFundMe effort for Yanez Jr.’s continuing medical care had brought in about $167,000 from about 2,400 donors by Wednesday afternoon.

Carlos Yanez Jr., his wife, Brenda, and their son, Carlos Yanez III.
Carlos Yanez Jr., his wife, Brenda, and their son, Carlos Yanez III.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Yanez Sr.

In an update earlier this week, Nicole Christina said her brother’s body is “still adjusting to eating and digesting again,” she wrote. But she noted the “shock is wearing off and his mood drastically sank. It’s heartbreaking to see him so sad.”

“We were talking about what a miracle it is that he can move his right arm, and he said, ‘And my right leg,’” she wrote. “We pulled the sheets back and he did make his right foot do the tiniest movement. At first, because of the hospital socks, we weren’t sure anything was happening. But then, we could see a twitch. We were screaming, crying and thanking God. ... He has not had that feeling of being able to move on the left. We are focusing on the positive and every win never feels small.”

Yanez Sr. told the Sun-Times his son is “talking and regaining his memory. And that’s both good and bad.”

He deliberately waited until earlier this week to tell his son that French had been killed.

“I’ve been keeping him in the dark about that and telling him she was OK up until [Monday]. He does know, now. He’s quite depressed and sad, but he’s getting better, I hope. I don’t know. I just told him for some reason God spared him and has a plan for him and that we don’t know why, but to accept it,” Yanez Sr. said.

How is Yanez Jr. handling the news while fighting for his own life?

“Like anybody else would handle the loss of a family member. Great pain and agony and sorrow. He’s sad and depressed. We’re trying to get him to think positively that he’ll be OK. But he’s just sad. Extremely sad. And that’s not good for his health,” Yanez Sr. said, though he added his son “doesn’t feel any” survivor’s guilt.

Nicole Christina wrote that her brother “thinks about Ella French and, in waves, it hits him.” And she added, he has said he must “get better for both of us.’