This video contains footage and language that may be shocking to some.
By Dennis Robaugh
From one minute to the next, a routine traffic stop or knock on a door could become a life-or-death struggle for a cop. When a police officer walks out the door, he or she does so knowing life can turn on a moment.
To turn toward danger, to put oneself between the lawless and the law-abiding, demands our respect. In honor of National Police Week, I share with you one such moment.
On a cold Dec. 7, 2006, shortly after dinnertime, a New Lenox police officer pulled over a pickup truck near Lincoln-Way Central High School. The truck pulled off a busy main road into the parking lot behind the school. Inside, after-school activities were under way. A basketball game. Swimming lessons. A Future Farmers of America meeting.
And in the flash of a moment, a young man with a badge found himself standing alone between a gunman and his community.
But I don't have to tell you what it was like that night. You can watch the entire 10 minutes of footage recorded by the squad car's dashboard camera and recently posted to YouTube. You can hear the wounded officer curse and call for help. Less than five minutes pass before backup arrives. Five minutes that seem to last forever as the gunfire barks, and then bullets strike a second officer.
I was there that night, on the other side of the building. When the video was shared with me a few weeks ago, I saw for the first time what I had written about seven years ago.
During the shootout, two New Lenox officers, William Callo and Andrew Dowding, were shot by Dale Rodeghero, a 57-year-old man, a good man by all accounts, who was despondent and intent on dying. A will was found in his truck.
Officers Jose Vasquez and Brian Wojowski shot Rodeghero, who died of his wounds 45 minutes after being pulled over.
Dowding was still a newlywed, having married just a few months earlier. A fellow officer was at a wedding rehearsal dinner down the street when the radio call for help came. And in a moment, he was out the door and on his way.
The officers survived that night. More than 100 officers died in the line of duty last year. They were honored on May 15, Peace Officers Memorial Day. Their names were added to the national memorial.
For better and for worse, life can turn on a moment.
For all who wear a badge, who turn toward the danger without a moment's notice, OMGPD offers appreciation to you and your families.
Previously in the OMGPD column:
» Two Men Rip Off Their Dates in Worst Blind Date Ever
» When Your Naked Housekeeping Fantasy Goes Bad, Don't Blame Christian Mingle