Linda Mason said her son Gerald Mason had wanted to be a cop since he was just 2 years old.
“He would use this stick and pretend it was his police car, just driving it around everywhere,” Linda Mason told the Sun-Times Friday night. “He was a sweetheart, and he loved everybody. He just wanted to protect people and make this city and state better.”
Illinois State Police trooper Gerald Mason died from a single gunshot wound he suffered while on the Dan Ryan Expressway Friday afternoon, with a passerby coming to his aid and police driving him to the hospital, according to officials and witnesses. The shooting happened around 1:45 p.m. in the inbound lanes of the Dan Ryan at 43rd Street, state police said in a statement.
“I was on the northwest side of the city when I got the call from the University of Chicago telling me to get down there for Gerald,” Linda Mason said. “I begged them to tell me he wasn’t the state trooper who got shot on 43rd Street. They said they couldn’t do that.”
“It was horrible and the worst day of my life,” she said.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly wouldn’t give specifics about the shooting during a Friday evening news conference, saying it remains an ongoing investigation.
“This is a death investigation. We do not have any information that there is a cause for concern, that there is a threat to public safety, that there is a threat to law enforcement specifically,” Kelly said.
Linda Mason said she doesn’t know much about what happened or how her son was shot. That information hasn’t been shared with her from doctors or police officials, she said.
In the hours after the shooting, which shut down the northbound Dan Ryan for hours, Linda Mason couldn’t help but reflect on her son. How he loved the Power Rangers, that he was an “A student.” He also was a fitness buff who was a “fanatic for working out” since a young age.
“He was also big on hanging out with his trooper buddies and his family,” she said, noting her son was a Chicago native and Hyde Park Academy High School graduate who devoted his life to policing.
The shooting led to traffic jams as both the Chicago Police Department and the State Police responded to the shooting. Investigators canvassed the lanes in search of shell casings.
A witness said he was crossing the expressway and saw people helping the trooper into a car.
“I was coming across the bridge, and there was a commotion going on,” said Gregory Sherman, with Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change. “I notice that there was an unmarked car coming north of town, and then maybe six or seven state troopers.
“Other officers transported what looked like the state trooper into the unmarked car, and then they rushed down the expressway,” he said. “There was a few civilian cars on the scene, it looked like, tending to the officer.”
On the police radio, someone could be heard saying “we need to clear a path to U of C” as an unmarked black Ford took the trooper to the University of Chicago Medical Center. Arriving there, an officer radioed that he needed help getting the trooper out of the car.
On Thursday, state police said they were increasing evening and overnight patrols in Chicago after an unprecedented rise in shootings on area expressways. More than 185 shootings have been reported on Chicago expressways so far this year, over double last year.
The stepped-up patrols were to begin Friday night.