Police on Chicago’s Near West Side have a new watchdog: a canine statue dedicated to Michael Ceriale, an officer shot and killed on duty in 1998.
Officers, friends and family remembered Ceriale Wednesday at the Chicago Police Department’s 12th District station, where the statue was unveiled.
The statue is a part of the K9’s for Cops initiative with the Chicago Police Memorial Fund.
On the front of the statue is Ceriale’s name and badge number, 17429. On its side is a painting of the Archangel Saint Michael.
Saint Michael, said 12th District commander Stephen Chung, was “a warrior driving down evil — just as Michael Ceriale did.”
One of Ceriale’s close friends is an officer at the 12th District, Chung said, and “considers him a guardian angel.”
Ceriale grew up in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, in what is now the 12th District. Becoming a police officer, Chung said, was Ceriale’s “boyhood dream.”
In 1997, that’s what Ceriale did. But “hungry for more action” after being assigned to patrol the district he grew up in, Ceriale transferred to the 2nd District on the South Side.
It was there, during an undercover narcotics investigation in Bronzeville, that Ceriale was shot just below his bulletproof vest. Ceriale spent six days in the Cook County Hospital before he died, on Aug. 21, 1998, at 26. He had been with the department just 15 months.
Jonathan Tolliver was convicted in the shooting; he was sentenced in 2001 to 60 years in prison.
“We have our guardian angel Michael to continue to watch over each and every Chicago police officer and protect them entirely,” Yolanda Ceriale, the late officer’s aunt, said.
The statue, nicknamed “Canine Michael,” was painted by local artist Peter Bucks, who attended high school with Ceriale — a coincidence, said Kim Shepherd of the Officer Michael A. Ceriale Memorial Foundation.
“We had no idea that [Bucks] knew Michael in high school. ... All involved believe that Michael guided our choice to Peter,” she said.
“It is our hope,” Shepherd continued tearfully, “that it will become a tradition for officers to pet Canine Michael on the top of the head, nose or paw to wish them good luck and Godspeed before they go out onto the street.”