As Chicago cops, Officer David Hickey and his brother-in-law, Sgt. Christopher Kapa, are no strangers to facing critical split-second decisions.
Hickey was shot in the leg last year as he and three other officers from his gang investigation team chased down and arrested several suspects wanted in about a dozen drug-related slayings across the city.
Kapa made the risky decision in March to drive Officer Del Pearson to a hospital without waiting for an ambulance when the veteran tactical officer was shot and bleeding profusely from a chest wound.
On Monday, Superintendent Garry McCarthy honored Hickey, Kapa and about 70 other officers for bravery at the department’s annual awards ceremony.
Hickey and his other team members happened to be on surveillance when a suspect in multiple drug-related homicides ran out of an building in the Edgewater neighborhood with two others in February 2011. When a wounded robbery victim came stumbling out of one of the building's apartments moments later, police discovered two homicide victims inside.
The team forced the getaway vehicle to a stop, but the suspects opened fire, wounding Hickey. A high-speed chase ended in a crash and the death of one suspect when he aimed a gun at police, authorities said at the time. The others were arrested.
Hickey returned to work three months later and even ran in the Chicago marathon in October 2011.
Hickey and his team – Officers Juan Perez, Joseph Biggane and Jeffrey Pacocha – were awarded the Police Medal, the department’s highest honor, as well as the Superintendent’s Award of Valor.
Hickey also received the Police Blue Star Award given to officers hurt in the line of duty.
“Everything’s gone OK. I mean, there was a little pain. But nothing that’s stopping me from being on full duty,” Hickey said after the two-hour ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Chicago downtown. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen every day.”
Kapa, whose wife is one of Hickey's sisters, was honored with Officer Kirsten Lund for helping save Pearson’s life by driving him to Advocate Trinity Hospital after he was shot just above his bulletproof vest on March 19 in the South Chicago neighborhood.
The Tribune wrote a front-page story recounting the efforts by the officers, doctors and others to save Pearson’s life after he lost much of his blood in the harrowing minutes following the shooting.
Pearson was also given the Superintendent’s Award of Valor in addition to Kapa and Lund. It marked the second time Pearson received the honor in his nine-year career. He was also given the Police Blue Star Award.
Pearson has been unable to return to work since the shooting. His arm is no longer in a sling, but he said he still feels nagging pain in his left hand due to nerve damage from the shooting.
Pearson said he hopes to return to work next year but indicated on Monday that he will likely not work on the streets again.
“I know what we all went through that night and other officers who helped save my life. But I can’t imagine (what it’s like for) the wife or the spouses or the children who have to receive that knock at the door,” Pearson said outside the hotel flanked by Kapa and Lund. “So it’s nice to have recognition ceremonies like this. It’s for them. It’s to see that the department’s a family and in these times we all come together. That’s what’s most important.”