Taft JROTC cadets honored


The highest honor given in the U.S. Naval JROTC Program was presented last week to two Taft High School cadets for their assistance in the arrest of a burglary suspect who was shot by police after he attempted to drive his vehicle into a squad car.

Taft JROTC commander Paul Muffler said that the cadets are the first Taft students to receive the "Cadet Meritorious Achievement Ribbon" since the program started at the school in 1996 and that only a "handful in the world" receive the award. Cadets Edgar and Steven, who last names are being withheld at the request of their parents, were honored at a Dec. 4 ceremony.

Chicago Public Schools director of military programs Todd Connor praised the students for their "heroism" and for seizing "an opportunity to do the right thing" when the victim asked for help. "This is a particularly notable occurrence because of such high risks involved," Connor said.

As they were on their way home from school on Sept. 20 in the 6100 block of West Belmont Avenue, the students were approached by a man who said that he had called 911 because his apartment was being burglarized. The students went inside the apartment building, where they saw a man who was carrying a knife, a box and a laptop computer.

"The suspect became confused and startled when he saw the cadets and ran down the stairs and to his parked car in front of the apartment complex," Muffler read from a statement. "The cadets followed and used their cell phone cameras to take pictures of the suspect and his vehicle.

"Police arrived at the scene and while trying to apprehend the suspect, the suspect was boxed in by police cars and as a police officers approached, the suspect tried to run over the police officer. The police officer fired his weapon, hitting the suspect."

The 44-year-old man was taken into custody in the 5600 block of West Roscoe Street. He was charged with residential burglary, aggravated assault and armed violence through the use of a vehicle, according to police. He was admitted to Illinois Masonic Hospital in serious condition, but he survived his wound, police said.

Chicago Public Schools director of military instruction Colonel Kevin Kelley said that he was impressed by the cadets’ ability to "make decisions in the heat of the moment." Kelley said that their actions are a "reflection of their parents and the ROTC."

Chicago police detectives Jose Gomez and John Hillmann said that the students and their parents were very cooperative during the investigation. Gomez said that the incident occurred in an area where witnesses "usually don’t want to cooperate" but that the students called 911 to ask if police wanted to question them.

"This is an example of cooperating with the police, and this is an example of what every citizen should do," Hillmann said.