Chicago Police Officer Conrad Gary was remembered at his funeral Friday as a “go-to guy” who was always smiling and always looking to help others.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, and Cardinal Blase Cupich mourned alongside Gary’s wife, his 6-month-old daughter, and hundreds of police officers in the chapel at St. Rita of Cascia High School.
Gary and his partner, Officer Eduardo Marmolejo, were struck and killed by a commuter train Monday after responding to an alert about shots fired in the area.
Marmolejo’s funeral is set for Saturday, also at St. Rita’s chapel.
On Friday, Gary was remembered as a man who lived “a life distinguished by service and sacrifice.”
“Everything Conrad Gary did, he did for others,” Emanuel said. “There is a word for someone who at every opportunity risks their safety to protect the safety of others. That word is hero.”
In his eulogy, Emanuel addressed Gary’s wife, Kelly, and talked about her infant daughter, Tess.
“Tess will grow up in a world that knows her father, respects her father, and cherishes the memory of her father,” Emanuel said.
Gary joined the Chicago Police Department in March of 2017. Before that, he was an officer with the U.S. Air Force from 2010 to 2015.
“He brought the professionalism he learned in the military with him to the Chicago Police Department. He was respectful to everyone he met. He was respectful even in the most challenging of circumstances,” Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in his eulogy. “Conrad was the type of guy that you wanted to show up if your family members ever needed help.”
That sentiment has been echoed by officers who worked closely with Gary in the 5th District on Chicago’s Far South Side.
Officer Samanthia Smith trained Gary on the streets when he was fresh out of the academy.
“It’s unfortunate that people think that you’re the police, you don’t have feelings, but this one is really hard for me,” Smith said. “This is a really bad loss for the city, really bad. He was going to be a phenomenal officer.”
Most on-duty deaths since 2010
Gary, 31, and Marmolejo, 36, were both fathers. Marmolejo had three daughters, the oldest in high school. Gary had one infant daughter.
The deaths of Gary and Marmolejo come at the end of an especially tragic year for the Chicago Police Department. Four officers have been in killed in the line of duty this year, the most since 2010.
“The tragic losses in the line of duty of Cmdr. (Paul) Bauer, Firefighter (Juan) Bucio, Officer (Samuel) Jimenez, Officer Marmolejo, Officer Gary. They have brought tears to our eyes, sorrow to our souls, and hurt to our hearts,” Emanuel said in his eulogy Friday.
St. Rita High School CEO Fr. Paul Galetto said the funerals for Gary and Marmolejo are the fourth and fifth funerals for first responders held this year at the school’s chapel.
Galetto said it’s clear the deaths have taken a toll on St. Rita’s community and the surrounding neighborhoods, which are home to many police officers and firefighters.
“They realize, there but for the grace of God go I,” Galetto said of those first responders. “They care for each other. And I’m awed by what I see at times, especially in the moments of grief and sorrow.”
‘An unanticipated consequence’
The day before Gary’s funeral, a Cook County judge ordered a $200,000 bond for the Chicago man who authorities say fired the shots that led Marmolejo and Gary to the site where they were fatally struck by the train.
Prosecutors told the judge Thursday that Edward Brown, 24, went up to the train tracks near 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue on Monday evening, and fired two shots: one into the air, the other at an empty school. They said Brown had found the gun earlier that day on his way home from work.
Brown’s attorney, Frank Kostouros, called it a “completely unforeseeable and unfortunate series of events” that resulted in the deaths of two “hero” officers.
“You know curiosity got the best of him … he was playing with his gun at home, he was like, ‘Let’s go test this out.’ Didn’t want to shoot it at anybody, he’s not that kind of a kid. He went to the tracks where he thought it would be safe,” Kostouros said of Brown. “He feels terrible for the officers and their families. Obviously, this was an unanticipated consequence of his stupid mistake.”
Brown’s two shots triggered an alert from the Chicago Police Department’s Shotspotter technology. Marmolejo and Gary responded to the call and were fatally struck by a commuter train while they were searching for Brown on the tracks.
At Friday’s funeral, Johnson said the final acts by Gary and Marmolejo signify their commitment to helping and protecting others.
“It was this sense of duty that led Officer Gary and Officer Eduardo Marmolejo up that embankment of the Metra tracks in pursuit of an armed offender last Monday evening,” Johnson said. “Together they climbed that steep hill leading to the tracks looking for evidence as well as the fleeing offender. Because they were determined to get yet another illegal weapon off the streets of Chicago.”
Patrick Smith reports on criminal justice for WBEZ. Follow him @pksmid.