It wasn’t his 3-year-old girl laid out on a sidewalk, with gunshot wounds to both her legs.
But the horrifying scene outside a Back of the Yards church quickly became personal for Chicago police Officer Luis Saldana.
“I’m thinking of my own family, my nieces, my nephews, my own children,” Saldana said Thursday, recalling a day after the shooting how he and three other officers helped keep the toddler alert while rushing her to a hospital.
“No one should lose their children,” he said.
The radio call of a child shot in the 1900 block of West 48th Street went out about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, and dozens of people were screaming as Saldana arrived minutes later with fellow officers Luke Rosner, Kevin Lombard and Craig Coughlin.
The girl’s 34-year-old father, shot in the foot, flagged them toward his daughter.
“She was lying on the ground bleeding. There was a lot of blood coming out, and she was getting pale,” said Saldana, a 16-year veteran.
Rather than wait for an ambulance, Saldana and Rosner picked the girl up and put her in a squad car. Coughlin radioed in for other officers to clear the path for Lombard to drive them about five miles to Comer Children’s Hospital.
“The decision was seconds. The ride felt long,” Saldana said.
Saldana and Rosner rode in back with the girl, applying pressure to each leg. Her father talked to her from the front seat.
“She was pretty calm,” Saldana said. “She cried a little bit when she saw blood on her hand. That was about it. But other than that, she was a trouper . . . She’s very brave.”
“She didn’t have much expression on her,” Rosner said. “The entire time, she was in shock.”
It was a jarring experience for Rosner, who is in his third year on the force.
“No one is immune to something like that,” he said.
Saldana and Rosner carried the girl into the emergency room. Rosner said they were able to breathe a sigh of relief when doctors told them her condition had stabilized.
“We couldn’t be any happier,” he said.
Police say the girl’s father was the intended target of the gang-related shooting. No one was in custody Thursday evening. The gunman ran away, possibly into a black sedan that was waiting nearby, police said.
“We would like the opportunity to arrest the offender,” Saldana said. “That would be great.”
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (312) 747-8380. Tips can also be left at chicagopolice.org.
“Yesterday, they came up against terrible circumstances, they overcame it, and they were absolutely heroes,” 9th District Cmdr. Randall Darlin said. “They did everything they could to save that child’s life and the life of her father.”