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Chicago Police & Fire Departments Give heroism awards: Police, Firefighters, Paramedics honored

Oct. 10--Chicago firefighter John O Brien downplayed his actions nearly a year ago, when he rescued an unconscious 8-year-old boy from the second story of a burning West Side home.

After all, he pointed out, he wasn t alone Oct. 20 in searching for the child.

I just happened to come across him, and we got him out, and it worked out really well, O Brien said.

But the city saw it otherwise.

O Brien received the Lambert Tree Award, one of the city s highest honors for bravery, Tuesday at a Chicago Fire Department and Police Department ceremony in City Hall.

O Brien was lauded for navigating the smoke-filled building without the protection of a hose line. He carried the boy to safety and began giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before handing him to paramedics.

You get a little emotional after you see your kids for the first time after doing something like that, O Brien, a father of three, said.

During the ceremony, 39 police officers, detectives, firefighters and paramedics were honored for their heroism both on and off the job.

One paramedic was recognized for ignoring her own wounds and instead tending to her injured colleagues and a patient, after the ambulance she was driving was struck by a car and flipped over. An off-duty police captain who chased down a man who stabbed a woman was lauded for his quick thinking. Another firefighter was given an award for valor for catching two children a mother dropped from a fire in a residential high-rise building.

The city also presented the family of firefighter William Billy Grant with the Robert J. Quinn Gold Badge Award. Grant was killed while responding to a call March 23 when his firetruck collided with a school bus.

Four police officers, including two SWAT team members, received the Carter Harrison Award for valor for rescuing a hostage and killing a gunman at a downtown law office Dec. 8.

Officers Christopher Tenton and Richard Nelson were among the first to respond to a call about a man with a gun opening fire on the upper floors of the Citigroup Center Building at 500 W. Madison St. When they arrived, they found a victim on the floor with a fatal gunshot wound to his head and then encountered the gunman -- later identified as Joe Jackson, an inventor who felt that a patent attorney had stolen one of his ideas.

During a 45-minute standoff, Tenton and Nelson tried to talk Jackson into putting his weapon down, the officers said. Jackson, instead, barricaded himself inside one of the building s offices.

At one point, the gunman walked out of the officers line of sight and executed a hostage, Tenton said. Jackson then reappeared and began reloading his weapon while aiming at another hostage who was administering first aid to a victim, Tenton said.

Fearing that the man would kill everyone in the building, Tenton said the officers realized immediate action was necessary.

Two SWAT team officers, Felipe Nunez and Charles Rhein, shot and killed Jackson before he could shoot again.

[Jackson] was prepared for the long haul, Nunez said. He had extra ammo; he had extra weapons with him.

Mayor Richard Daley thanked the scores of emergency responders in attendance for their on-the-spot, life and death decisions.

There is no room for Monday morning quarterbacks and second guesses, Daley said.

The annual awards, established in 1885, are named after Judge Lambert Tree and former Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, who each donated $700 for gold medals during the ceremony s inaugural year.

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wgwoodward@tribune.com

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