Community mourns loss of two more officers in difficult year for CPD

CHICAGO – A city and a South Side community are mourning the loss of two Chicago police officers who were struck by a train and killed in the line of duty Monday night on the Far South Side.

Around 6 p.m. Monday, Officers Eduardo Marmolejo, 36, and Conrad Gary, 31, were pursuing a shooting suspect on an elevated stretch of tracks near 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue when they were struck by a South Shore train and killed. Experts and a CPD spokesman said they were likely focused on a train coming from the opposite direction.

Both officers were relatively new to CPD, Marmolejo serving for just over two years, while Gary had been on the force for 18 months. Officer Marmolejo leaves behind a wife and three young daughters, and Officer Gary a wife and six-month-old daughter.

In Marmolejo's South Side neighborhood, people wrapped purple and black bunting around the trees to send love and support to his grieving family. Police chaplain Reverend Daniel Brandt faced the heart-wrenching challenge of consoling two sets of families Monday night.

“Three generations of children are affected,” Rev. Brandt said. “One of the officer’s kids was old enough to realize what was going on. Then you’ve got, of course, the spouses and the parents.”

It's been an extraordinarily trying year for the Chicago police department. On February 13, Commander Paul Bauer was gunned down while chasing a suspect into a stairwell outside the Thompson Center in The Loop. Then on November 19, Officer Samuel Jimenez was shot and killed while responding to a shooting a Mercy Hospital that also killed a doctor and a pharmacist.

Less than a month later, Marmolejo and Gary were killed, the third and fourth officers killed so far this year. It's the first time two officers were killed in the same incident since 1990, according to Chicago Police Memorial Foundation spokesman Dave Bayless. The last time CPD faced such a tough year was in 2010 when five officers were killed.

John Gordon said he knows what it’s like to be in these families’ shoes. He lost his brother Michael, a Chicago police officer, in 2004 when his squad car was hit by a drunk driver.

“I really sympathize with these families,” Gordon said.  “They have lost four Chicago police officers this year now, three right before Christmas.”

Gordon said the pain never goes away but it is eased by the support the families receive.

“That first year is a blur,” he said. "You’re numb for that first year and talk to as many people as you can and find support in organizations like the Gold Star Families and the Chicago Police Memorial foundation and you just find a way to cope."

Joe Ahern, the executive director of the 100 Club of Chicago, said 2018 has been “a particularly tragic year.”  The 100 Club is not-for-profit organization that supports families of police officers, fire-fighters and emergency medical personnel killed in the line of duty.

“We are there with the families forever,” Ahern said. “Sadly this is our 270th fatality since we’ve been in existence 52 years.”

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham echoes the sentiment while thinking about three other CPD officers in addition to Marmolejo and Gary.  All five are from the 5th District and all have died this year, two in the line of duty, two from suicide and a fifth collapsed while on the job.

“The 5th District is a very difficult district to work in,” Grahm said. “That’s why years ago we worked out a work schedule that is very different than everywhere else in the city, to try and give them a break and give them more time off.”

Still he says his members are resilient.

“They know that they are running into gun fire and that’s what they signed up for.  And I hope that the people of Chicago can just say thank you to some of these officers for doing this very difficult job.”

Organizations that support fallen officers and their family include the 100 Club, and GoFundMe pages have been set up for the families of both Gary and Marmolejo.

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