Initially, the memorial planned at the Thompson Center for slain Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was supposed to be a modest one.
Illinois State Police Sgt. Jeffery Jones said he and another state police officer simply planned to lay a wreath on the stairwell outside the Thompson Center where Bauer was shot one year ago Wednesday.
“Nothing formal, no speeches, no media,” Jones said.
But, Jones said, word got around. People wanted to be there and participate.
Ultimately, Jones and Chicago police chaplain Father Dan Brandt led a much larger ceremony to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Bauer’s death.
About 200 people gathered in the Thompson Center, some of them hanging over the first-floor railing to look down at the memorial taking place on the lowest level of the building’s massive glass atrium lobby.
“Today, we all come together as one,” Brandt told the crowd. “We come together today both to mourn, to remember, but also to give thanks, thanks to God for Paul, for the memories that he gave us, for the stories that we still have to share about him.”
Brandt described Bauer as a charitable, professional man who was the embodiment of integrity.
The crowd was dotted with police officers, firefighters, and politicians.
Former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was one of several candidates for mayor at the ceremony. McCarthy said he knew Bauer well and was the one who promoted him to captain.
“Everything you heard about this guy is true,” McCarthy said. “He was humble yet confident at the same time.”
Bauer’s 14-year-old daughter, Grace, attended the memorial with other family members.
Jones said he was glad the ceremony turned into a bigger event than originally planned.
“You have to do this so you can remember the person and the kind of life that they had, and you can reach out and see other police officers, you can see the family, the chaplain, and it shows the unity that we have in the profession,” Jones said.
Jones said he was one of the first officers to respond to Bauer’s shooting last February.
Bauer was on his way to a meeting at City Hall, he heard a call over the radio of a man who had fled police and joined the chase. He chased that man, who police said was 45-year-old Shomari Legghette, down a stairwell outside the Thompson Center and was shot multiple times.
Jones said he was patrolling the Thompson Center when he heard the shots, rushed to the sound of gunfire, and helped arrest the alleged shooter.
He said it was “one of the worst days” he’s ever had as a police officer.
“It’s constantly on my mind, I think about it all the time, knowing that the commander had a family, had such a young daughter, and he’s not there anymore,” said Jones, who said he himself has five children and identifies with Bauer as a father.
The stairwell where Bauer was killed is an emergency exit. Jones said every time someone goes down those stairs, an alarm rings so that Jones can hear it in his office at the Thompson Center.
“I do instantly think about that day, 30 times a day,” Jones said, visibly shaken by the memory.
Bauer was the first of four Chicago police officers killed in the line of duty in 2018, the deadliest year for on-duty cops since 2010, according to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, which tracks officer deaths.
Legghette, is charged with Bauer’s murder. He pleaded not guilty and is being held in jail without bond while he awaits trial.
When asked by Chicago magazinewhy he pleaded not guilty to the charges, Legghette reportedly said, “Because I’m not guilty. Would Trayvon Martin have been guilty with George Zimmerman if it had went the other way?”
He declined to go into further specifics about the incident.
Legghette’s next court date is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.