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Family of Cops Loses Chicago Officer To Crash With Drunk Driver

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August 08, 2004

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Family of Cops Loses Chicago Officer To Crash With Drunk Driver

Officer Down: Michael Gordon - [Chicago, Illinois]

By H. Gregory Meyer and Tom Rybarczyk, The Chicago Tribune

Michael Gordon
Michael Gordon

Police work came naturally to Officer Michael Gordon, a man who patrolled Chicago's rough-and-tumble Harrison District on the midnight watch.

His father, Robert Jr., recently retired as assistant chief of the Riverside Police Department. An older brother, Robert III, is a cop in Broadview. An uncle is an officer and a cousin a lieutenant with the Chicago force, his mother said.

"It was a family business, as they say," said Gordon's aunt, Pat Gordon Bann.

Gordon's promising start to a law-enforcement career ended at dawn Sunday when a drunken driver in a sedan ran a red light at Sacramento and Jackson Boulevards and collided with his squad car, throwing him and a rookie officer in the passenger seat from the vehicle, police said.

Gordon, 30, was pronounced dead less than an hour later in Stroger Hospital, while Officer John Dalcason, 24, was listed in fair condition in Mt. Sinai Hospital, authorities said.

It was the city's first on-duty fatality since March 2003, when Sgt. Philip O'Reilly died in a collision with a tow truck, police said.

The driver of the sedan that police said plowed into the front end of the squad car, Luis Calle of the 6000 block of West Melrose Street in Chicago, died later Sunday morning, police said. Calle's blood-alcohol level was 0.177, police said--more than twice the legal limit.

Gordon had served as a military police officer in Bosnia and South Korea attached to the Army's 82nd Airborne Division before joining the Riverside and then Chicago police.

Took a pay cut

He took a $15,000 pay cut when he left Riverside in 2002, said his mother, Carol. He was assigned to the West Side's Harrison District, one of the most violent in the city, working the overnight shift, she said.

"He wanted a job where he didn't just write tickets. He wanted to catch the bad guy," said his mother, a Darien resident.

Driving home during the city's morning rush hour, Gordon would often call his father, who retired last year after three decades on Riverside's force, to debrief. He would talk about a carjacking he helped stop or the outsiders driving into the neighborhood to buy drugs.

"It was very much a culture shock for him to be on the West Side," his mother said.

Outside Stroger Hospital's emergency room Sunday, Police Supt. Philip Cline briefed Harrison District officers as some sat on the curb cradling heads in their hands and others exchanged embraces.

Darien police took his mother and father in a squad car to the hospital. In front of Gordon's Rogers Park apartment, more police guarded the entryway to the three-flat as his family mourned inside.

Gordon is survived by his wife, Guin, 35; their daughter, Grace, 6 months; two sons from a previous marriage, Malik, 7, and Cullen, 5; and a stepson, David Lopez, 16. Another brother, John, 35, works for a securities firm.

Gordon was driving east on Jackson when Calle, driving south, ran a red light "at a high rate of speed" and crashed into the squad car, said police spokesman Carlos Herrera. Both Gordon and Dalcason were ejected, police said. Herrera said it was not clear whether they were wearing seat belts.

The sedan's bumper lay on the corner with thick white skid marks scratched onto its right side Sunday morning. A steel road barrier was bent in half.

Twon Williams of the 3000 block of West Jackson said he just had returned home when he heard the crash.

"All we saw was smoke," he said.

Williams said he saw an officer on the ground. Then about 10 police officers managed to lift up the squad car and pull another officer out from underneath, he said.

Gordon grew up in Cicero, became an Eagle Scout and graduated from Berwyn's Morton West High School, his mother said. After a couple of years of uncertainty, the muscular, 6-foot-5 Gordon joined the Army.

In a war-torn Bosnia he served as a military police officer. When he returned home, he kissed the ground and told his mother he wanted to see a priest because of the things he had seen, she said. He also patrolled the demilitarized zone in Korea.

"He just said the American public does not know how good they have it in this country," she said.

Raked in awards

By 2000 he was a newly minted officer on Riverside's 20-person police force, said Police Chief Gene Karczewski. In his two years in uniform there, he had raked in awards and grateful correspondence for everything from catching burglars to retrieving lost children.

"He would go light someone's pilot light if they needed it," Karczewski said.

He joined the Chicago force in October 2002, about the time he married his second wife in Las Vegas, his mother said. Their daughter, born prematurely, would recognize her father by the blue of his uniform, Karczewski said.

On patrol in the Harrison District, he usually shared a car with Officer Mario Mendoza, who was off Sunday morning. They would talk about his baby girl, argue about the best war films or trade barbs about the White Sox or the Cubs--Gordon rooted for the North Side team, Mendoza said.

Early Sunday, Gordon called his regular partner "busting my chops" about the Cubs' win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, Mendoza said.

Just a while later, the sedan came rolling down Sacramento Boulevard and, without leaving as much as skid mark, nailed Gordon's squad car, police said.

"How ironic," his mother said. "He was out to get the bad guy, and in the end it was just a drunk driver that killed him."

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