Officer John Poulos
Chicago (IL) Police Department
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Officer John Poulos, of the Chicago (IL) Police Department, as the recipient of its Officer of the Month Award for July 2014.
On August 31, 2013, Officer Poulos, who was off duty at the time, was headed home to his neighborhood of Old Town in Chicago. As was his habit, rather than taking the main road, he chose to walk down a darkened alley where a rash of burglaries had plagued the neighborhood. Soon after entering the alley, he noticed an individual on his neighbor’s unlit second floor balcony using a flashlight to peer into the darkened residence. Having made it a point to know his neighbors, Officer Poulos knew that the apartment was empty and being renovated. Since Officer Poulos was not in uniform, he identified himself as a police officer and instructed the individual to come down from the balcony.
The individual refused to comply with Officer Poulos’ request and began verbally threatening him. Officer Poulos called 911 for assistance and informed dispatch that he was witnessing a burglary in progress. He added that he had confronted the offender, who was both uncooperative and threatening.
Suddenly, the suspect directed the flashlight beam directly into Office Poulos’ eyes, momentarily blinding him. Officer Poulos drew his weapon and took cover behind a large dumpster in the alleyway. The suspect descended the staircase all the while keeping his right hand in his waistband—implying that he had a weapon—and repeatedly shouted that he was going to kill Officer Poulos.
Realizing that his back-up was still minutes away, Officer Poulos closed the distance between himself and the suspect. As the suspect reached the bottom of the staircase, Officer Poulos instructed the would-be burglar to “show his hands and slowly get on the ground.” In response, the suspect lunged at Officer Poulos, attempting to strike him with a metal object that he had pulled from his waistband.
Fearing for his safety and the safety of his neighbors, Officer Poulos fired his weapon twice and took cover until backup arrived on scene. Testimony of eye-witnesses confirmed that Officer Poulos fired his weapon as a last resort, fatally wounding a career criminal who had more than 50 arrests on his record. Discovered in the suspect’s possession were several stolen cell phones and jewelry the suspect had obtained from multiple burglaries previously classified as cold cases.
According to Commander Berscott Ruiz of the Chicago Police Department, “Officer Poulos exemplifies all that law enforcement strives to instill in its officers. He could have walked home that night, ignored what he had seen and allowed a career criminal to continue to prey on unsuspecting people. Instead, he acted, and for that his community, his department and this City are grateful.”
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.
Officer Poulos, along with the other Officer of the Month Award recipients for 2014 will be honored at a special awards ceremony in Washington, DC, in May 2015, during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s annual calendar.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.