CHICAGO — A CPD officer shot in the shoulder while serving an arrest warrant was honored for heroism and bravery Tuesday, along with the other tactical unit members who helped save his life.
Just after 7:20 p.m. on March 9, 34-year-old Officer Andreas Cuenca was on a 25th District tactical team as they prepared to serve a warrant to a suspected drug dealer in Humboldt Park.
After they arrived at the house, Cuenca offered to take the first — and most dangerous — position for the police raid by handling the battering ram.
“As hard as they come, this guy. As tough as can be,” CPD Officer Felix Bautista said of his partner, Cuenca. “Usually I’m the guy with the ram. That particular day, he said, ‘I’ll take it for you.' I’m old, I’ve got a bad back.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has consistently said that serving warrants is one of the most dangerous duties that a cop performs.
That night in March, Bautista says the officers announced they were the police, and then tried to gain entry. Suddenly, Cuenca took a bullet to the shoulder, which bounced off his spine and remained lodged in his neck.
“I heard a pop banging the door at the same time, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Then I noticed he just became limp and his head went straight down,” Bautista said.
Officials claim the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Emily Petronella, was watching their every move.
“What the officers didn’t know was that the door was barricaded from the inside, and there were cameras from the inside allowing her to see the police trying to get in to her apartment,” said Phil Cline, Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
Officer Cesar Valadez, another member of the team, shielded Cuenca while Bautista provided cover with his body and made the life-saving decision not to move him from the porch. They chose instead to keep him still until paramedics arrived.
Valadez carries a special law enforcement First Aid Kit, and applied a blood-clotting bandage to Cuenca's wound.
“Once we realized the whole thing went south on us, everybody just kind of kicked into instinct, and just wanted to protect each other and make sure everybody was alright," Valadez said.
Cuenca was taken to Stroger Hospital, and spent the next seven days in the ICU. As his fellow officers recounted his most dangerous moment on the Chicago police force Tuesday, he stood stoic and silent. An eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Cuenca served two tours of duty in Iraq.
“He survived an IED attack only to be shot by a 19-year-old on the streets of Chicago,” said Cline said.
Cuenca is hopeful to return to active duty in the near future. The alleged shooter was charged with attempted murder, and is awaiting trial.
“They represent the best of the Chicago Police Department, and I’m just happy to be a co-worker amongst them, and this is one of the finest examples we have of officers in the 25th District,” CPD Captain Mike Barz said.