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Madison Pruitt, the girl who dreamed of becoming a cop, has died

Madison Pruitt

Interim Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and 75 officers walked to Madison Pruitt's house Wednesday to make her dream of being a cop come true. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Madison Pruitt, the 6-year-old girl who was held up as a hero last week by Interim Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson for her struggle in fighting muscle cancer, died Sunday.

Her death hit Sgt. Ernest Spradley and the rest of the officers of the Gresham District police station, two blocks from Madison’s South Side home, especially hard.

“It was, I don’t know, it was just like one of our own, or worse than one of our own,” Spradley, reached Monday morning, said of her death. “It really knocks the wind out of you. We still had a couple of things we wanted to do for her.”

On Wednesday, Johnson visited Madison at her home in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood — where she was receiving hospice care — to make her an honorary member of the Chicago Police Department.

“You’re a brave little girl and you are the reason why we do what we do,” Johnson had told Madison, who sat bundled under blankets in a wheelchair. “You’re our hero.”

Becoming a cop was Madison’s dream.

In a voice not more than a squeak, Madison told Johnson that she wanted to be a police officer “because you get to protect people.”

More than 75 police officers accompanied Johnson to greet Madison, including some on horseback. Johnson placed a police cap on Madison’s head – the cap sank down on her face moments later.

Thousands of Chicagoans came to know Madison from that moment, which was captured by newspaper photographers and television cameras.

Shortly thereafter, gifts began arriving for her at the Gresham District police station.

“People from as far as Algonquin were bringing us things for her,” said Spradley, who delivered a gift basket to Madison on Saturday. Among the goodies it contained: an assortment of dolls and a batch of 25 get-well letters from a group of fifth graders.

Spradley said he offered condolences to Madison’s family on Sunday, including her grandmother, Pamlor Nelson.

“She’s not doing very good to say the least,” Spradley said. “She cared for her grandchild until the end. But she had the strong support of family members and friends that kind of made it more bearable.”

Spradley is helping with funeral arrangements. “We may even do something special for her as far as escorting services,” he said.

“Everyone at the family’s home Sunday said Madison would have wanted us to be there, so we will, and we’ll provide support as much as we can,” he said.

Madison was diagnosed last April with rhabdomyosarcoma, a muscle cancer. She had undergone radiation and chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission but returned around the holidays.

“It comes back. And it came back with a vengeance,” Nelson said last week.

Madison’s law enforcement aspirations developed recently, Nelson said, noting that there are a few cops in the family.

Previously, the little girl wanted simply to take care of children and wash dishes and clean up the house, Nelson said last week with a laugh.

“She’s a girly girl. She loves her nails done. She likes to get her hair done. She loves riding her bike and playing with her cousins,” Nelson said last week.

Spradley said that officers on Monday planned to drop off another gift basket they didn’t have the chance to deliver.

A picture of Madison is on the “Leadership Board” in the lobby of the Gresham District station, Spradley added.

“It features community leaders,” he said. “We put a picture of a person who members of the community might not normally know and offer a little bio about them.”

Funeral services were to take place at St. Sabina Church Saturday. Further details were pending.

Johnson planned to attend and ordered a police honor guard to participate in services, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Monday.