Thousands gather to remember fallen Chicago officer
Law enforcement officers from multiple states and departments gathered to honor Officer Samuel Jimenez
By Jeremy Gorner, Elvia Malagon and Patrick M. O'Connell
CHICAGO — Hundreds of police officers gathered at a church in Des Plaines on Monday to honor and remember fallen Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez.
A blizzard that socked the Chicago area overnight did not prevent officers from Chicago and across the country from attending the late-morning funeral service at the Chapel of St. Joseph at Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where the 28-year-old officer was remembered as a loving husband, father, friend and colleague.
Jimenez, a married father of three, was killed a week ago while responding to a call at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center. The officer was one of three people fatally shot by a gunman who had confronted his former fiancee at the hospital. Also killed were Dr. Tamara O’Neal, 38, who previously had a relationship with the gunman, and Dayna Less, 24, a pharmacist. Officials said the shooter was struck once in the stomach by police gunfire before shooting himself in the head.
The Mass for Jimenez began about 11:45 a.m. at the church on the grounds of Maryville Academy at 1170 N. River Road in Des Plaines. Jimenez and his family attended Mass regularly at the Des Plaines church, which was expected to be packed to its capacity of about 1,000 people.
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich gave the greeting for the Mass. Chicago police Supt. Eddie Johnson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner also spoke at the service.
Deacon Al Lopez, a former police officer, led a homily in Spanish during the service. He told those assembled that Jimenez worked to maintain peace. Lopez juxtaposed Jimenez’s actions with those of the gunman, describing how the officer responded to the call of service that day and gave his life while someone else took away life.
“Officer Samuel Jimenez gave love when someone else gave hate,” Lopez said in Spanish. “Officer Samuel Jimenez helped when someone else abused.”
Hundreds of police officers and others navigated the snowy grounds and began filing into the church for the service. In addition to Chicago police officers and those from northern Illinois departments, an officer from New York City and several from Boston traveled here to attend. Crews used shovels and snowplows to clear the sidewalks and parking lots outside the church in the early morning hours to ensure that Jimenez’s family and fellow officers would have a clear path to the church.
Chicago police officers of all ranks, clad in dress blues, started to file into the chapel as the winter storm that delivered more than 7 inches of snow to the area finally subsided. Light gusts of wind sent snow swirling through the air as other officers began to coordinate the logistics of the funeral using walkie-talkies and television news crews set up for their broadcasts.
A sea of navy blue also filled a small chapel on the church’s property used as the overflow area for the funeral service. Chicago police officers gathered there watched a live stream of the service on two televisions, which included Spanish religious songs and two religious readings from Chicago police officers.
Several other officers, all or most of them with the rank of sergeant or above, handed out programs before the service. The cover of the program showcased a photo of Jimenez in his police uniform, under the words “Always Remembered” written atop a purple ribbon. Inside, the program had photos of Jimenez with his children and others with him alongside fellow officers. And on the back of the program was a photo of Jimenez and his wife kissing on what appeared to be Navy Pier, the Chicago skyline in the background.
Police officers lined the roads on the church grounds as the hearse carrying Jimenez’s body approached, escorted by police SUVs and squad cars. A procession of police officers carrying the U.S., Illinois and Chicago flags marched ahead of the hearse as bagpipers played. Blue ribbons adorned the trees on the church grounds as well as the wrought-iron fencing of All Saints Catholic Cemetery along River Road south of the church.
As the hearse pulled up outside the church, Johnson, Emanuel and Rauner stood alongside the police officers. Jimenez’s wife, Crystal Garcia, stood at the front of a white tent near the entrance to the church as officers carried the casket from the rear of the hearse to the doors of the sanctuary.
After the funeral Mass, a police processional will travel to Ridgewood Memorial Park for a private burial. Officials said the processional will head east on Central Avenue from the chapel, then south on Milwaukee Avenue for the short trip to the cemetery.
“The important thing is that we remember Sam, we think of his family and all of his co-workers,” said Marc Buslik, commander of the Town Hall District, where Jimenez worked for a short time. “It’s a terrible thing and despite all of the to-do going on, it’s still all about the fact that we have lost a colleague, we’ve lost a friend and, frankly, for something stupid.”
Even though Buslik said he meets many young officers who come through his district, he said Jimenez stood out.
“In this era of transformation in policing, Sam understood that we don’t just want warriors, we want guardians,” Buslik said. “And the cruel irony is that he lost his life being the warrior trying to save other people. It’s really something that hurts us. We all understand that that’s our life and we just have to support his family now.”
Jimenez had been with the department a little less than two years when he was shot in the neck in the line of duty. He had been on a mail run with his partner when they saw the police presence at the hospital around 3:20 p.m. and went to help.
Jimenez was shot within minutes of arriving at the Near South Side hospital, according to accounts. He later was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Medical Center. The young officer met his wife more than a decade earlier, and the couple would have celebrated their first wedding anniversary next month.
Jimenez joined the force in February 2017 and was quickly making an impression on his superiors.
“He was an ideal community policeman,” said Leonard McGee, who met Jimenez at the district’s Beat 211 meeting run by McGee. “His respect for the people in the community, how he approached the people ... he had the soft skills to be a great police officer. He was the epitome of the new police.”
Jimenez attended Foreman High School in Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, where he studied Spanish, officials said. Before joining the Police Department, Jimenez worked as a mail carrier and as a civilian detention aide assigned to lockups for the Police Department, according to police officials.
After graduating from the police academy, Jimenez was assigned to the Town Hall District for training before being assigned to Wentworth on the South Side. During his time with the department, he earned two honorable mentions.
Visitation was held from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Oehler Funeral Home in Des Plaines.
Jimenez was the second Chicago police officer killed in the line of duty this year. In February, Near North District Cmdr. Paul Bauer was fatally shot in downtown Chicago.