Chicago Police Officers Recognized For Saving Man From Ledge

Lisa Fielding
August 09, 2018 - 2:01 pm

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Three Chicago Police officers are being recognized for their quick thinking in saving a man last weekend.

When a patient at Swedish Covenant Hospital fled to the rooftop of a three-story building on Sunday morning, Chicago Police were quickly called to the scene.

"Last Sunday morning, we had an individual in crisis who had fled the hospital. Once on top of the building, the man, who was in crisis, professional staff was trying to mitigate the issue and called us. Five officers and one sergeant responded," said Sean Loughren, Commander, District 20.

When officers arrived, Officer Jason Kotlarz starting talking to the man from the ground, then used a utility ladder to get closer.

"We noticed Jason had a good rapport with the individual, he was able to get him far enough away to detain him," said Officer Robert Berndt.

"I kept trying to talk to him. I built enough trust with him. He was kinda still moving back and forth with me. I was waiting for my opportunity and he turned away and I was close enough to grab his arm securely to bring him down, which I did."

Kotlarz said he talked to the man for more than a half an hour.

"It felt like time went like that. When I was on the rooftop I was about a foot away from him until I was able to approach him closer. My hand was out, hoping he would put his hand out and grab mine," recalls Kotlarz.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

Commander Loughren said the situation could've turned on a dime and they could've been dealing with tragedy, but instead, training played a key role.

All Chicago police officers undergo crisis intervention training, partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, or NAMI.

"It's a fantastic training program. It encompasses a lot that are paralleled in forced mitigation that every single police officer is trained on. Just making sure we can slow everything down. A person who is in crisis, there is so much anxiety that's going on."

"Definitely a hard situation initially," said Officer Victor Montez, who was watching from below.

Loughren said the bodycam video is riveting and could be used for training in the future.

"This is all captured on body worn video. It was amazing watching it. It was gripping, it was very emotional. You can tell what kind of emotion is really part of the officers who are involved in it and how exhausting it is both physically and emotionally," he said. "I've already discussed that with the individuals who do that training and I'm sure it's going to be reviewed. It was an absolutely fantastic example of how we can put those tools into practice."

Kotlarz has only been on the force for two years. It was his first 'save.'

"I just had tunnel vision. The first thing I thought of is trying to engage with some kind of conversation with him, some kind of trust, to find out what his situation was, what was going on. I was able to do that, build some kind of trust to make my way up to the rooftop and take the individual down safely," Officer Kotlarz said.  "This is my first time ever dealing with this kind of situation."

"This is the first time I've seen something like this from start to finish on body worn camera. This is certainly the first time I've seen this in this capacity," Loughren said.

"I felt great. It's hard to explain, it felt great to save a life. It could've been one of my family members. That's what we're here to do as first responders, it felt great," Kotlarz said. 

"They took it upon themselves to put themselves in harms way. That's not something police officers find in their job role, is climbing a three story rooftop," Loughren said. "There is a great deal of personal risk. I could not have been more proud of what they accomplished."