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FOP boss booted CPD commander out of ceremony for cops who aided Officers French, Yanez after shooting

The move by John Catanzara amounted to a stinging rebuke of a high-ranking police official with a deep personal connection to the tragic shooting.

Chicago Police Commander Bryan Spreyne (left); FOP President John Catanzara
CPD; Sun-Times/Ashlee Rezin

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara booted a top Chicago police commander from a ceremony honoring a group of cops who responded to the August shooting that led to the murder of Officer Ella French and seriously wounded her partner Carlos Yanez.

Sources who witnessed the interaction said Cmdr. Bryan Spreyne showed up to last week’s ceremony at FOP Lodge #7 to support Officer Nicolas Morales, a tactical officer in Spreyne’s Chicago Lawn District who was being recognized for driving Yanez to the University of Chicago Medical Center and aiding French.

But prior to the ceremony, as Morales sat nearby with his wife and children, sources said Catanzara confronted Spreyne and went on a profanity-laden tirade while pressuring the commander to leave because he hadn’t been invited. The move amounted to a stinging rebuke of a high-ranking police official with a deep personal connection to the tragic shooting.

Catanzara, one witness recalled, said that “‘this is an invite-only [event] and you weren’t f------ invited here.’ And [Spreyne] is like, ‘Well, what do you want me to do, John? What, you think I should leave?’ And [Catanzara] is like, ‘Yeah, I think you should f------ leave.’”

At the time of the shooting in August, Spreyne was a lieutenant in the specialized Community Safety Team that included French and Yanez, police sources said, and he was the first supervisor to respond.

Spreyne was later promoted to commander of the Chicago Lawn District, where he oversees Morales and where he previously butted heads with Catanzara. Spreyne was directly involved in generating some of the departmental complaints that had threatened Catanzara’s job as an officer.

Catanzara struck a defiant tone when asked about his decision to eject the commander.

“I did so what f--- him,” he said in a text message. “He’s not a member of the union and had no right even being in there without an invitation from me. What a pathetic child.”

A longtime patrolman, Catanzara resigned last month and announced he was running for mayor as he faced dismissal for allegedly violating multiple departmental rules, including generating false police reports in 2018 against former Supt. Eddie Johnson and his commander in the Chicago Lawn District at the time, Ronald Pontecore.

In a YouTube video Catanzara posted Friday from Jamaica, he warned that the incident with Spreyne was “going to become part of some kind of Sun-Times article or fodder,” claiming he was likely going to be framed as “vindictive because Spreyne was part of the Eddie Johnson nonsense.”

The union boss also continued to rail against the city’s vaccination policy, noting that police leaders are no longer welcome at FOP headquarters for any “lodge business.” More than 250 officers have lost pay for failing to report their vaccination status to an online portal, while 91 remained on no-pay status and had been stripped of their police powers.

“They have not stood up for the members,” Catanzara said of the department’s leadership.

Several officers who responded to the shooting of Officer Ella French and Carlos Yanez this summer were honored at a FOP ceremony last week. They include (from left) Officers Thomas Raap, Nicolas Morales, Cristian Saucedo, Ricardo Torres, Elyse Rodriguez. Yanez is seated.
Provided/Nicolas Morales

In an interview, Morales said it was an “honor” that his commanding officer cared to even show up as he recalled the harrowing events that followed the shooting near 63rd Street and Bell Avenue.

After the attack, Morales said he helped load Yanez into his cruiser and rushed him to the hospital. Once there, Morales said he helped load Yanez onto a gurney and brought him inside — a process he later repeated with French.

Last week’s ceremony followed a reunion of sorts earlier this month, when Morales and the other responding officers showed up at Yanez’s surprise birthday party.

“It was a great time. Met his family, met him,” Morales said of the party. “It was very emotional.”

Morales said a social media post from that night appeared to encourage the FOP to arrange the award ceremony. But once the conflict arose there, sources said Spreyne simply congratulated Morales and left.

A police spokesperson declined to comment on the interaction.