Police radio calls show frantic effort to save Chicago cop’s life. ‘Start compressions, start breathing, whatever we got to do. Start it now.’

Two officers were badly wounded during a traffic stop in West Englewood over the weekend. One of them, Officer Ella French, died.

SHARE Police radio calls show frantic effort to save Chicago cop’s life. ‘Start compressions, start breathing, whatever we got to do. Start it now.’
A Chicago police procession drives by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office early Sunday morning, Aug. 8, 2021. The procession was in honor of Officer Ella French, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in West Englewood Saturday night.

A Chicago police procession drives by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office early Sunday morning, Aug. 8, 2021. The procession was in honor of Officer Ella French, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in West Englewood Saturday night.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

An unconscious Chicago police officer lay dying in the backseat of a squad car, the officer next to her trying to keep her alive with chest compressions as they raced to a hospital.

A dispatcher radioed over and over the intersections that needed to be cleared to speed their way to the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Behind them, a police helicopter hovered over an intersection in West Englewood where the officer and her partner had been badly shot. The scene was growing with flashing lights as supervisors asked for more and more help with a third suspect still at large.

For the moment, though, the dispatcher focused his attention on Officer Ella French in the backseat.

“OK, listen to me, take that damn vest off right now and start compressions,” he told the officers in the car. “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.”

“OK, compressions started almost 15 minutes ago,” the officer responded.

“Excellent,” the dispatcher answered. “Keep it rolling, baby. Keep it rolling.”

Police radio calls provide a gripping account of the frantic moments after the officers were shot during a traffic stop shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday at 63rd Street and Bell Avenue.

Directing much of that response was a dispatcher who stayed on the air for more than three hours, sending out ambulances, positioning cars in a wide perimeter to close off the scene, even helping a helicopter pilot spot officers on the ground.

The dispatcher is not being named because the Sun-Times has been unable to contact him.

The first indication of trouble was at 9:08 p.m. when the dispatcher radioed, “Alright guys, who’s running out there? Somebody’s running.”

Within seconds, an officer out of breath gives his location.

“Who is this and what you got?” the dispatcher asks.

“Wearing a blue Cubs jersey,” the officer yells.

The dispatcher, still unaware of what happened, immediately calls for the radio channels to be cleared while routing police cars to the address.

The dispatcher calmly asks over and over what is going on until an officer finally shouts, “Officer down!”

Over the next few moments, the dispatcher called for a helicopter, called out all available cars and ordered a three-block perimeter in all four directions — an area that would greatly expand as the night wore on.

“Give me two ambulances, two ambulances needed for two officers down,” the dispatcher said. “We got them coming.”

Instead of waiting, the officers were placed into police cruisers and rushed to the hospital. One officer said they were taking French to the University of Chicago Medical Center.

“Please get her in there,” the dispatcher said. “Make it quick.”

Another officer radioed that they were taking the other wounded officer to Holy Cross Hospital, a course quickly changed by the dispatcher.

“Listen to me officer,” he said. “Officers going to Holy Cross, that’s not a trauma center. We got to get him to a trauma center, guys. Take him to U of C, they’re a trauma center. Go to U of C, don’t go to Holy Cross.”

After asking about the wounds the officers suffered, the dispatcher alerted police at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

“Shot in the head between the eyes,” the dispatcher said about one of the officers, his voice cracking. “Both officers unresponsive.”

At this point, two suspects had been arrested. One of them had been shot by police and an ambulance was taking him to the same hospital as the officers.

“Is it possible to take him to another trauma center?” the dispatcher asked.

“Stay there, I’m trying to talk to the ambulance crew right now,” an officer responded.

“Just take him to the morgue,” another officer can be heard saying.

The officer said the paramedics insisted on taking the suspect to the University of Chicago Medical Center. But a minute later, he said a commander with the paramedics made them go to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

About 15 minutes after the first call about the shooting, the dispatcher had not yet been told a third suspect was being sought. “No we’re not looking for anyone, guys,” he said. “You’re doing a hell of a job.”

It wasn’t until 30 minutes that the dispatcher was told police were still looking for a woman in her 20s wearing a hoodie.

The perimeter was widened as a helicopter swept the scene. The pilot radioed he thought he saw someone suspicious in a gangway but was having a tough time seeing where officers were.

The officers aimed their flashlights to the sky so the pilot could spot them. They found no one.

It’s unclear when the third suspect was taken into custody. The arrest was not announced until later Sunday morning.

The dispatcher has gotten a lot of praise on social media for his handling of the aftermath of the shooting.

He did not return calls from the Sun-Times Monday but posted on his Facebook page, “I’ve been in this field since 2001. I’ve dealt with death, murder and suicide on a constant basis amongst things that most people would never imagine.

“Sounds bad to say this, but I’m used to it,” he added. “It’s prepared me.”

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