Chicago police brass, clad in their dress blues and crowned caps, crowded the lobby of department headquarters on Tuesday to immortalize the star of a fellow commander who was shot and killed earlier this year.
The No. 29 star of Cmdr. Paul Bauer, which he received when he attained the rank of captain, was placed by his wife, Erin, and teenage daughter, Grace, in a glass cabinet alongside those of some 500 other Chicago police officers who died while serving the city.
Bauer was the highest-ranking Chicago cop to be killed in the line of duty in decades when he was fatally shot outside the Thompson Center in the Loop on the day before Valentine’s Day. The gold star Bauer was given when he became commander of the Near North patrol district was presented to his family.
“Cmdr. Bauer was a friend. And more than that, he was a great police officer,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during the ceremony. “Paul was a very courageous man who dedicated his life to public service. As we all know, he backed up the quality of his work with his life.”
In addition to a couple of hundred Chicago police officers of all ranks, a contingent of Illinois State Police troopers and several elected officials attended the ceremony. Speakers also included Gov. Bruce Rauner, who renewed his call to state legislators to reinstate the death penalty for anyone convicted of murdering a police officer.
“That is what is right. That is what is just. Our police officers put themselves at risk to protect us. And we must protect you,” Rauner told the crowd.
Bauer was downtown on Feb. 13 for a meeting with aldermen when he heard the radio call of a fleeing suspect. Moments later, Bauer saw 44-year-old Shomari Legghette running nearby and gave chase on foot, according to official accounts.
Bauer chased Legghette to the top of a stairwell outside the Thompson Center and attempted to detain him. The two struggled. Legghette then stumbled down the stairs, and Bauer either fell or followed him down the stairs to a landing below.
The struggle continued on the landing before Legghette drew a handgun and fired seven shots, fatally wounding Bauer, authorities said.
Legghette, a four-time felon, was arrested and charged with murder and other crimes. He is awaiting trial.
Bauer’s postings during his 31-year Chicago police career included time in the department’s Mounted Unit, where he was a “highly-skilled” rider of police horses, First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio said in his remarks at the ceremony. Bauer led the unit as a lieutenant and was eventually promoted to commander of the Near North District, overseeing much of Chicago’s downtown area.
Riccio, who was in the police academy with Bauer, choked up with emotion when he spoke to the crowd about his colleague.
“During his tenure, he displayed unwavering leadership and a passion for all the citizens in the city,” said Riccio, pausing at times. “Cmdr. Bauer never stopped being the police. He never asked his officers to do a task or an assignment that he would not do himself.”
Bauer’s childhood friend, former interim police Superintendent John Escalante, spoke on behalf of the commander’s family after the ceremony. He briefly reminisced about how the two went to elementary school, high school and college together before they “chased each other around” for three decades with the Police Department.
“It’s been difficult since February for them,” Escalante said of Bauer’s family. “But I think what’s helped, each and every day is they feel this tremendous amount of support from, not just the Chicago Police Department, but absolute total strangers in the city who continue to support them.”
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