Just four months ago, Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer didn’t mince words when he spoke about his frustrations that career offenders weren’t facing stiffer consequences in court.
“We’re not talking about the guy that stole a loaf of bread from the store to feed his family,” Bauer told the Loop North News. “We’re talking about career robbers, burglars, drug dealers. These are all crimes against the community. They need to be off the street.”
He took exception to Cook County’s push to set more affordable bails for defendants as part of an effort to reduce the population in the jail.
“Maybe I’m jaded,” he said. “But I don’t think that is anything to be proud of.”
On Tuesday, Bauer was fatally shot in the Loop by a four-time felon who had drawn the suspicion of tactical teams in the busy downtown area, police said. Officers tried to stop the man a few blocks from the Thompson Center, but he took off running, according to radio traffic of the incident.
Bauer encountered him at the Thompson Center, where a physical struggle resulted at a stairwell outside the government building, Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Bauer was found by other officers. The suspect was taken into custody.
Though the suspect had a lengthy record of interaction with police, he had not been arrested by Chicago police since 2014, and each of his felony arrests resulted in prison sentences, according to public records.
Colleagues remembered the 31-year department veteran — commander of the Near North police district — as a level-headed leader well-suited to handling the pressures of fighting crime in a downtown business district where violent crime such as robberies remained a threat.
Some even described the 53-year-old as mellow.
Town Hall Commander Marc Buslik shared a district border with Bauer, coordinating with him on how to address robbery patterns and other issues that spilled over into both districts.
“He was the ideal district commander for downtown,” Buslik said. “He was thoughtful. He became very adept at handling the various demonstrations. He was very good at controlling events. He was just very solid and very steady, even-tempered and thoughtful.”
Bauer worked all over the city during his three-decade career. He served in South Side districts and also as a tactical lieutenant on the Near West Side.
Bauer later commanded the mounted patrol unit, including during the sometimes-raucous NATO demonstrations in 2012. It was his second stint in the unit. In 2015 he was transferred to the Near North District, serving as both lieutenant and executive officer. He was appointed commander in July 2016, department officials said.
“He was very conscientious of his job,” said Jefferson Park Capt. Hootan Bahmandeji. “The troops loved him, and he took care of the troops. He was an all-around good guy.”
Bauer lived with his wife and 13-year-old daughter in the tightknit Bridgeport neighborhood, where they attended Nativity of Our Lord Church on Sundays.
“You’d see them walking to church and back,” said Danny, a longtime neighbor who asked to be identified only by his first name. “It was your all-American family.”
In a video posted on YouTube, Bauer spoke to an independent TV station last year about his efforts to improve the department’s relations with the community.
Bauer had started a monthly coffee meeting with residents. What the career law enforcement officer was hearing encouraged him.
“I know there is a perception out there. … There is a lot of mistrust with the Police Department,” Bauer said. “On my perspective, I have never been thanked more for my service (than) in the past two-three years … compared to the previous 28 years.”
Chicago Tribune’s Liam Ford and Megan Crepeau contributed.
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