The man was on the ledge of the building, threatening to jump, when Chicago Police Officer Jason Kotlarz arrived in the 5100 block of North California Avenue Sunday morning.
His crisis training kicked in. Communicate. Empathize. And stall for time.
The man was a patient at nearby Swedish Covenant Hospital. But he’d left his room, and ended up on top of a three-story building. He’d been there less than 10 minutes when Kotlarz arrived.
Kotlarz had established a rapport with the man by the time two more officers, Robert Berndt and Victor Montes, arrived. Kotlarz asked the man about his family and offered to call them with his cellphone, but the man’s replies were inconsistent.
So the three officers got a ladder and climbed the building to get closer.
Kotlarz moved to within about a foot and a half, and kept him talking.
He inched even closer and persuaded the man to step farther away from the ledge.
Once he did, Kotlarz grabbed him; he, Berndt and Montes all held on to make sure the man was safe.
20th District Commander Sean Loughran said at a Thursday morning press conference that he’d never seen souch a selfless response in a crisis situation.
Then again, he added, Chicago Police officers often put themselves in harm’s way because it’s “part of the calling of the job.”
This incident was the first time Kotlarz, a fairly new officer, had been in a crisis situation. He said when the moment came, he had “tunnel vision” and focused on earning the man’s trust.
“It felt great saving a life,” he said. “It could be one of my own family members, anyone. That’s what we’re here to do — save people.”