Wednesday morning at South Loop Elementary School, a blank sheet of paper covered a whole wall. It wasn’t blank for long.
All day, students wrote on it, sharing their thoughts and feelings after learning that one of their own — Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer — had died the day before in the line of duty. Bauer’s daughter, Grace, is a student at the school.
By Wednesday afternoon, the sheet was covered, and staff put up another.
Bauer was always around — he’d served the Local School Council, a finance committee associated with the council and, six years ago, helped organize what is now an annual Daddy-Daughter dance.
He was the glue of the operation and sorted details like printing flyers, ordering food and booking a disc jockey, said Jason Easterly, a fellow dance organizer.
“First thing you’d see at dismissal was him standing outside smiling and waiting for his daughter to come out,” Principal Tara Shelton said Wednesday. “And he was always here helping to support the school.”
The dads’ group also created two other annual student events: a game night at the school and an excursion to catch a White Sox game.
And Bauer used to be part of the school’s “Kiss and Go” patrol, a group of parents who volunteered to direct traffic so parents could drop off their kids in the morning.
“He was a pillar of our school community,” Shelton said. “He was like a quiet storm…he was not a man of many words, but when you had a conversation with him he left an impression on you.”
Bauer, 53, commander of the Near North District, was shot multiple times Tuesday afternoon near the Thompson Center in the Loop, where he had confronted a man who was fleeing other officers. Bauer was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died.
Authorities on Wednesday announced multiple charges, including murder, against Shomari Legghette.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel brought a bouquet of flowers to the family’s Bridgeport home Wednesday morning after meeting with CPD command staff at department headquarters.
The mayor’s entourage arrived to a neighborhood where trees had been decorated by neighbor with blue ribbons and gold stars. It actually was Emanuel’s second visit to the home; he had stopped by late Tuesday after arriving back in the city from Los Angeles.
Along South Halsted Street near the Bauer family home on Wednesday, dozens of blue ribbons were tied onto trees in remembrance of Bauer. Flags outside the 9th District police station at 31st and Halsted were lowered to half-staff.
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) remembered Bauer as a devoted family man and neighborhood staple.
“His wife, Erin, his daughter, Grace, you always saw them together,” said Thompson, who went to the hospital emergency room Tuesday after Bauer was shot.
“He was all about family. He was about community. He was a churchgoing man. … I’d see him at Nativity [of Our Lord church],” Thompson added. “He was just a good neighbor and very quiet. You didn’t know how impressive of a career he had. He’d never talk about it. Very modest.”
Thompson said Bauer and his family had lived in their Bridgeport home at least 15 years.
After Emanuel visited Wednesday morning, at least a half dozen others stopped by.
“It’s a close-knit community and in times like this we all come together to support one another,” Thompson said.
Among those who visited the home was Cook County Commissioner John Daley, himself a native of Bridgeport.
Daley said Bauer’s wife grew up on the 3500 block of South Lowe — the same block that the Daley family has lived on for decades.
“The city has lost an outstanding public servant,” Daley said.
Bauer was as passionate about his job as when he joined the department, said his friend, Officer Gary Lorden.
“When he was working, he was working,” Lorden said. “He listened to the radio, answered the calls. He did what he was supposed to do: help out. . . he jumped in. He didn’t just watch from the sidelines.”
Friends said he embraced the city’s cultural offerings and diversity. Instead of private school, he sent his daughter to South Loop Elementary school.
Though hard-working, he lived a full and balanced life. “I can’t believe how many things he got done in a day,” Lorden said. “Volunteering, being a commander, taking care of his daughter.”
A graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, he liked to read history. Just recently, he was reading the Bible, “front to back,” Lorden said. And, “He called me and told me the other day he bought a set of golf clubs. He was finally going to try golf.”
He liked to go for a run. Sometimes he dropped in at the Weather Mark tavern on South Michigan Ave. He loved watching the Blackhawks. When he was assigned to the Mounted Patrol Unit, he helped keep order as the city celebrated Blackhawks wins.
The commander liked getting away to Florida.
Lorden said, “He was as straight as they come. He told it like it was.”
More than 200 Near North Side residents and CPD members gathered Wednesday night outside Bauer’s 18th District headquarters to remember the fallen commander.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Hector Contreas lit a candle and set it alongside dozens of bouquets and stuffed animals placed outside the police station in a makeshift memorial. When Bauer led CPD’s mounted patrol units, he worked with Contreas to coordinate security at the city’s Air and Water Show.
“The kindest, most genuine guy I’ve ever met,” Contreas said. “This kind of pain is uncalled for.”
The Navy commander said Bauer’s willingness to jump in on a radio call — not even from his own district — illustrated his strength as a leader.
“When you’re going into battle and your commander tells you to start climbing up a mountain, you want a commander who is going to climb right there with you,” Contreas said. “Paul led his guys up the mountain every day.”
Bauer’s wake is scheduled for Friday evening, with a Saturday morning funeral service, both at Nativity of Our Lord Church, 653 W. 37th St.
Contributing: Maureen O’Donnell, Mitchell Armentrout