December 5, 2005

Positivity: Chicago Cop Honored for Rescue

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:13 am

Double positives–the woman involved was rescued, and the perps were eventually caught:

The original story:

Nov. 8–Alert Police Officer Rescues Kidnapped Woman

CHICAGO Kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of her car, a Chicago woman escapes with her life thanks to a quick-thinking police sergeant.

Police are still looking for the two kidnappers, and their victim wants them off the streets.

As Kristyn Hartman reports, Loretta Wheeler’s nightmare started at gunpoint as she stepped from her parked car in Hyde Park Monday night.

Police say the kidnapping took place at 45th and Woodlawn, when the woman was approached at about 9:30 p.m. They bound her hands with a phone cord.

“These punks come out of nowhere and force you into the trunk of the car,” she said. “They kept popping the trunk and pointing a gun to my head saying, ‘This is it.’”

Her captors demanded to know her PIN number for her ATM card, but in her confusion she couldn’t remember it. They took her wallet, her money and repeatedly threatened her life.

“I didn’t break down. I had to keep my wits. I was trying to figure out a way to escape,” Wheeler said.

The offenders, according to police, drove her car the wrong way down a one-way street. A tactical team sergeant saw it going eastbound on a one-way westbound street, and followed the car with its lights on. The license plate owner didn’t match the people in the vehicle, and the officer stayed with the car.

When the officer tried to pull the car over, the offenders put the car in reverse, jumped out of the moving vehicle and ran away. The car ran into a fence near 59 E. 46th Street.

But what Sgt. Richard Rochowicz thought was stolen properly turned out to be so much more.

“A short time later I called for some assist cars and notified my dispatcher of the incident, at which time I heard a muffled cry and some banging on the trunk,” Rochowicz said. “I’ve been patrolling this area for about 14 years and this is definitely one of those that you’re going to remember throughout your career.”

When the car stopped, 59-year-old Wheeler took a chance.

“Finally I said ‘I’m going to die one way or another,’ so I pounded on the trunk and he heard me,” she recalled.

Loretta now calls Rochowicz her guardian angel.

“She told some of my colleagues she’ll never forget my angelic face,” Rochowicz said.

Wheeler’s son can’t thank Rochowicz enough for saving his mother’s life.

“What can you say to somebody who saves your mom’s life? Words can’t express it,” said Johnnie Wheeler.

The follow-up:

Nov. 30–Cop Honored For Rescuing Woman From Trunk

CHICAGO The woman he rescued from the trunk of her car said he had the face of an angel.

On Wednesday, the veteran Chicago police officer, who followed his instincts and saved her, was honored for his savvy and his bravery.

CBS 2′s Mike Parker reports on the recognition for a cop, who says he was just doing his job.

Two weeks ago, the story of how 59-year-old grandmother Loretta Wheeler was carjacked, then kidnapped and put into the trunk of her car for three hours, was widely reported.

“I spent at least three hours of hell. It was hell,” Wheeler said.

Now the story of her rescuer, police Sgt. Richard Rochowicz, is being recognized. He’s the 21st district officer who pulled over Wheeler’s car on the South Side and rescued her from the trunk.

Members of the Chicago City Council gave Rochowicz a standing ovation as they praised his honor, professionalism and valor.

“Let’s keep talking about the goodness of the city. When something goes wrong, we point it out. But don’t overcomplicate the issue when someone does something good,” said Mayor Richard Daley.

The actions of Sgt. Rochowicz and some ATM surveillance photos helped lead to the arrest of two suspects, 17-year-old Demarcus Dunn and 18-year-old Tyree Howard.

“These are evil people. Everybody’s afraid to say that, but I’m not afraid to say it. They’re evil,” Daley said.


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