As fire tore through his Englewood home Wednesday morning, Joseph Ortiz accepted what he thought was his fate.
“I was preparing to die,” said Ortiz, 36, who uses a wheelchair after being wounded in a shooting nearly a decade ago. “I just gave up.”
But amid the flames and smoke emerged officer Adrian McCoy, who found Ortiz on the second floor and carried him down to safety. McCoy then went back inside and rescued three other residents.
During a news conference Thursday at Chicago Police headquarters, Supt. David Brown lauded McCoy’s “true heroism and professionalism” in setting aside his own well-being “to ensure the safety of the residents.”
“I am very proud to stand here with this hero,” Brown said.
A school resource officer at the nearby Englewood STEM High School, McCoy told reporters he was responding to another call when he noticed smoke coming from the home in the 6700 block of South Normal Avenue and snapped into action.
“By the time I ran upstairs to grab Mr. Ortiz, I noticed that the smoke was getting real dark and real black,” said McCoy, who has been on the police force for over four years. “So that’s why I had to hurry up and rush and get him out. And the flames, as well, [were] getting heavy.”
McCoy, 43, suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center, but no other injuries were reported, according to Larry Merritt, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department. Merritt couldn’t say how the fire started, but it’s not believed to be arson.
Once the smoke cleared, McCoy said he and Ortiz’s family shared an emotional phone call later Wednesday.
“It was very sentimental and very heartfelt to know … how grateful they are of what I did,” noted McCoy, who said he’s in turn grateful to God for putting him there.
“It was very emotional for me,” he added. “I’m not a person to get emotional very quickly, but it was. And I’m glad. It makes me proud.”
In an interview, Ortiz again expressed his appreciation: “Just being alive and having another day to live, that’s in his hands.”
Left only with the clothes on his back, Ortiz said he’s staying with his mother over the holidays as he looks for a new home. Still, he remained positive.
“I might not have nothing, but I’ve got my life,” he said. “That’s the best Christmas that I can ever ask for.”