Three police officers and a citizen honored for good deeds in Park Ridge

Three Park Ridge police officers received special recognition this month for their efforts in saving men who tried to end their lives.

Officers Carlos Panizo and Kristen Abbinante were presented with the Park Ridge Police Department’s Award of Valor, while Officer Mark Vallejo was given the Life Saving Award during a Feb. 3 City Council meeting.

Panizo and Abbinante’s award — the highest given out by the department — was based on a dramatic rescue that occurred in late October on the railroad tracks near the Uptown train station. A 42-year-old man, reportedly telling passersby that he wanted to “end it all,” was sitting on the railroad tracks and claimed to have a gun in his coat.

“He told the officers he had a gun, that he was going to shoot and that he wanted them to shoot him,” said Police Chief Frank Kaminski.

The officers held the man at gunpoint as they tried to talk to him and call for all trains to be stopped, but almost immediately they were faced with another danger: an approaching express train.

As the man laid down on the tracks, Panizo was able to determine he did not have a gun in his hand and, rushing onto the tracks closely followed by Abbinante, Panizo grabbed the man by his shoulders and dragged him to a platform — just as the express train roared by. Panizo and Abbinante searched the man — finding no weapons — handcuffed him and called an ambulance.

“Both of these officers put their lives in jeopardy, and for their heroic actions they are being awarded the department’s highest award,” Kaminski told elected officials and audience members gathered for the Feb. 3 recognition at City Hall.

Vallejo was presented with the department’s Life Saving Award for his actions while responding to a call of a man who had cut his wrists in a suicide attempt. With pieces of information that he had from a third-party 911 call, Vallejo arrived at the home referenced in the call, but no one came to the door, which was locked.

“He kicked down the door, he went in, went to the second-floor bathroom and found the subject in there with two knives, three puncture wounds and blood all over,” Kaminski said.

Vallejo immediately administered first aid to the man. When an ambulance arrived, the man was further treated by paramedics and taken to the hospital.

“If it hadn’t been for Officer Vallejo, an individual would have taken his life,” Kaminski said. ”He’s a very seasoned officer. His quick assessment of the situation and his judgement really helped save this person’s life.”

In addition to honoring the officers, Kaminski also acknowledged Park Ridge resident Emily Patel for her work in reporting two suspicious people to police, which led to burglary charges.

Kaminski said Patel called police in December after noticing two people outside a neighbor’s home. Police responded and a brief foot chase and search of the neighborhood occurred before two men were apprehended. The officers also determined the house where the men had been seen had been burglarized and some jewelry that was allegedly stolen had been dropped in the snow outside.

“She did the right thing — she called 911,” Kaminski said of Patel as she was presented with an Award of Appreciation.

Kaminski said the case is an example of a successful community partnership with police, an initiative he has focused on since he joined the police department as chief in 2009.

Others can take away an important message from what occurred as well, he said.

“Know your neighbors, watch out, and if you feel something’s not right, give us a call,” Kaminski said.

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