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Chicago cops who survived 2017 ambush receive CPD’s highest honor

Colin Ryan Eddie Johnson Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Police Ofc. Colin Ryan (right) with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson (center) receiving The Police Medal, the department's highest honor, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Friday. | Rick Majewski/For the Chicago Sun-Times

Two Chicago Police officers who last year survived an ambush by a shooter wielding a high-powered rifle took home top honors Friday at the department’s annual recognition ceremony.

On May 2, 2017, tactical officers Leo Augle and Colin Ryan had been tailing members of the La Raza gang in the Back of the Yards neighborhood when someone pulled up behind them and unleashed a hail of gunfire on their surveillance van.

“We were just in a small hollow electrician van, so it sounded like someone was lighting off fireworks right inside,” Ryan said.

Ryan immediately felt pain in his hip, and he would soon realize he also had been shot twice in his left arm. Augle was hit in the back.

Chicago Police Sgt. Leo Augle (right) was with fellow officer Colin Ryan in a surveillance van when they were wounded in an ambush shooting last year. On Friday, Augle and Ryan received the department’s highest honor, the Police Medal. Presenting it were Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson (center.) | Rick Majewski/For the Chicago Sun-Times

That didn’t stop both Augle and Ryan from returning fire. By then, the van had pulled up in front of them. Before other officers arrived with tourniquets for their wounds, the two wounded cops reached for their radio and rattled off descriptions of the shooters.

Friday, both officers received the Police Medal — the department’s highest honor — and the Superintendent’s Award of Valor. They also each received a Police Blue Star Award, which goes to officers hurt in the line of duty.

Since the shooting, Augle has been promoted to sergeant. Ryan now works in a different gang investigation unit, he said. The fifth-generation Chicago Police officer never considered stepping into a safer role.

“This is a job I really enjoy doing, and look forward to doing it every day,” Ryan said. “I didn’t want to let this one incident define the rest of my life.”

The shooter is still at large, but the van driver, 18-year-old Angel Gomez, was arrested and charged with two counts each of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

In all, Chicago Police leaders doled out awards to more than 70 officers and supervisors on Friday.

The William Powers Leadership Award was given to the late Cmdr. Paul Bauer, who was gunned down in the Loop earlier this year. The posthumous award recognized Bauer for his “visionary approach to operational excellence and dynamic leadership.” Bauer’s wife and daughter accepted the award on his behalf.

The Richard J. Daley Police Medal of Honor went to William Nimrod, who has spent more than two decades as a 24-hour primary care nurse for Officer Jim Mullen. Mullen was shot and permanently disabled while responding to a 911 call in 1996.