Sergeant John Conneely and Officer Michael Modzelewski
Chicago (IL) Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has selected Sergeant John Conneely and Officer Michael Modzelewski of the Chicago (IL) Police Department, as the recipients of its Officer of the Month Award for April 2016.
On the evening of September 28, 2015, shots rang out in the violence-plagued South Side of Chicago. Officer Michael Modzelewski and then-Officer John Conneely responded to a drive-by shooting in a rundown neighborhood that left five people with gunshot wounds. The officers were immediately met by a woman carrying an 11-month-old child with a wound on his side.
Chicago Police Department protocol states that officers should wait for an ambulance to take victims to a hospital, but when Officers Conneely and Modzelewski radioed for one, they were told none was available as all ambulances in the area were en route to other scenes. The officers felt like they had no choice but to violate the protocol and take the child to the nearest trauma hospital immediately.
“I don’t think that there’s training out there that can prepare you for something of this magnitude,” Officer Modzelewski said.
Officer Modzelewski secured the crying infant in the back of their patrol car while continuing to apply pressure to the wound. Officer Conneely drove several miles to the hospital while staying in constant radio contact with dispatch. In addition, he informed his sergeant of the crime scene details.
While en route, the officers were able to notify the hospital of the child’s wounds, current condition and estimated arrival time. As they pulled into the hospital, emergency staff was readily prepared to administer aid to the infant.
“It’s a situation where you don’t know if you’re going to make the right decision,” Officer Modzelewski said, “but your instincts kick in and you…act humanely and try to save a life.”
The child survived the shooting and emergency room doctors credited the officers with saving his life with their decision-making and communications skills. Unfortunately, the infant’s pregnant mother and grandmother were shot and killed during the drive-by. Officers Conneely and Modzelewski were not disciplined for their actions.
“I think at the end of the day, we knew in our hearts that we made the right decision,” Officer Conneely said. “Both of us could sleep easy at night knowing we did the right thing.”
“They made a decision, and honestly, it goes against protocol to remove a victim from the scene unless it’s a dire circumstance,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said. “But they made a decision, as it turns out it probably saved a life.”
“I’m most proud of the press the police department has gotten from it,” Officer Conneely said. “The Chicago Police Department has many, many stories like this that never get told, and in this day and age of the public perception of law enforcement being a little jaded, stories like this can remind them that this is what goes on every day.”
“These officers knew they had to make a quick decision to save this baby who was caught up in the violent shootings in Chicago,” Memorial Fund President and CEO Craig W. Floyd said. “While breaking protocol is never encouraged, their choice to take the child with them and keep in constant contact with the dispatcher and hospital likely saved his life. And for that, they are deserving of the April 2016 Officer of the Month Award.”
Located in the nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Award Program began in 1996 and recognizes federal, state, and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Sergeant John Conneely and Officer Michael Modzelewski, along with the other Officer of the Month Award recipients for 2016, will be honored during National Police Week at a special awards ceremony in Washington, DC, in May 2017.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.