“Shots fired,” came over the CB radio of the squad car of Chicago Police Officers Alejandro Cabral and Juan Zuniga.
The two Calumet College 2015 graduates were on patrol the morning of July 6 when the call came out that someone had been shot on Chicago’s South Side near Lake Shore Drive.
The officers drove to the scene where the shooting took place at a gas station. Seeing that the scene was already secure by other officers, they left.
But it wasn’t too long when another call came in about someone being shot. The officers came across a young man wearing a hoodie near 8400 block of South Mackinaw Avenue
“We didn’t know he was shot. He didn’t appear shot initially. What I thought was that he was a witness. I asked him if somebody was shot,” Cabral said. “He said yes. I said who? He said me.”
The 24-year-old man, who was identified as a gang member after the incident, had been shot four times, including once in the sternum. “I told him that paramedics were coming, while he was holding my hand and saying don’t let go, don’t let go”, said Officer Cabral.
The officers had to act quickly if they wanted to save the man’s life. While Officer Cabral proceeded to put the victim on the floor, Zuniga made sure the perimeter was safe for him, for his partner, for the victim, and for everyone around the area. “My first reaction was ok this guy, they just tried to kill him, is this guy going to come around the corner? I had my gun out, I am watching my partner, I am watching the 360 all the way around”, said Officer Zuniga.
With no paramedics on the scene, Cabral began applying pressure to the wound. It wouldn’t stop bleeding so Zuniga, a Naval veteran, began using a special kind of gauze called Quikclot.
Both Officers kept applying pressure to the wound and the bleeding stopped. “We were very fortunate in this case, we were fortunate to stop the bleeding. We found out days later that he actually survived. Whoever shot him wanted him dead”, said Cabral.
This issue got a lot of attention from the media. The CPD and the City of Chicago honored the officers with plaques.
“This is overwhelming. The fact that we were able to help somebody is an awesome feeling,” said Officer Cabral.
Because of their heroic efforts in saving the man’s life, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel honored Cabral and Zuniga before the Chicago City Council with the Mayoral Resolution for Heroism.
Zuniga and Cabral recalled the experience before a group of journalism students from CCSJ. The officers shared their thoughts, their conclusions about this incident and the reason of their reactions towards a situation of this magnitude.
Officer Cabral, who is an Army veteran, attributed his response to his military training.
“In 2008, despite the fact that I was already a Chicago police officer, I re-enlisted for the military training. The unit I belonged to was going to Afghanistan and I ended up going with them but before I went, I changed my job to becoming a combat medic. I had four months of military medical training,” Cabral said. “If I didn’t have had that training before, I don’t know what I would have done.”
To practice real life emergency scenarios, Chicago Police Officers are put through simulation training called LEMART (Law Enforcement Medical and Rescue Training).
“We do a lot of scenarios, they teach you how to use the training and the adequate medical kits to save yourself and your partner’s life,” said Officer Zuniga.
However, even thought police officers go through many drills, courses and training to handle different types of situations, Cabral said there is not an specific way to proceed in every situation
A police officer’s life is different every day and every day there are different events that put in jeopardy the community and the officer’s own life.
“There is no way to really approach any given situation,” Cabral said. “What you do is you recall your training, you go and see what the situation is and what you have and then you revert back to your training.”
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