One day after Chicago Police Officer Bernard Domagala was shot in the head, his condition at the hospital was upgraded from “critical” to “serious.”
What that meant, in the code of emergency rooms, was that Officer Domagala probably would not die anytime soon.
And so the story moved on. There was no police officer’s funeral, thankfully, and little more coverage by the media, embarrassingly. As if it were not every bit as big a story that Officer Domagala, a good cop who acted bravely, would be severely disabled for the rest of his life.
We should have told that story, too. We owed it to our Chicago Police who, for all the knocks they get, do a dangerous job. We can’t say that often enough.
On Tuesday, 29 years after he was shot, Officer Domagala finally did die. The cause of his death was homicide; he succumbed to the shot to the head that had put him in a wheelchair all those years ago.
We can’t tell you much about Officer Domagala. His grieving family declined to talk to a Sun-Times reporter. But we know he died in the line of duty, confronting a heavily armed and deranged man who had barricaded himself inside a house when sheriff’s police officers tried to evict him.
And we know Officer Domagala’s family rallied around him. The police department released a beautiful photo of wife and three grown sons crowded around him, protectively.
And we can see he never lost his smile.
There is another angle to this story, as well, that the media — and most cops — probably don’t say enough about. The man who shot Officer Domagala was a former Chicago cop himself, and he suffered from severe mental health issues. Just two years before, the former officer, Tommie Lee Hudson, had been arrested for shooting two dogs dead. The detective who handled that case called Hudson “a mental case.”
Poor mental health is an occupational hazard for police officers everywhere, given the nature and stress of the job, but it seems to be a particular problem in Chicago. As Andy Grimm of the Sun-Times reported earlier this year, the rate of suicide among CPD officers is 60 percent higher than other departments across the country. Yet CPD has few counselors when compared to other big city police departments.
Officer Bernard Domagala is gone. He held on for 29 years, but he gave his life for Chicago as surely as if he had died in that emergency room on July 14, 1988.
A grateful city thanks him.