Man to the rescue needs some help
BY BRIAN STANLEY email@example.com July 12, 2012 5:18PM
Justin Hurley displays his second cast after he broke his hand assisting a Joliet police officer he saw getting kicked in the back of the head during a domestic disturbance call as seen Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:12AM
JOLIET — Bystander? Not Justin Hurley.
“I always wanted to be a police officer when I was a kid,” Hurley said. “I guess this will be as close as I get.”
Just after midnight June 24, Hurley, 25, was attending a barbecue with friends near the 300 block of Romayne Avenue when they heard a woman screaming for someone to call the cops.
While Hurley’s fiancee, Sam Rachanski, watched, he and his friends Darren Cole, Juan Ruiz and Thomas Tatro ran over to allegedly find Randall L. Harrison, 22, beating up the mother of his 1-year-old child.
“The victim tried to leave with a friend and Harrison became upset and hit her in the face repeatedly while she was holding the infant,” Police Chief Mike Trafton said. “He also struck the child, but it’s unknown if that was his intent.”
A girlfriend of the victim also tried to intervene, while Jamal M. Smith, 20, reportedly began helping Harrison. As more neighbors and onlookers began gathering in the street, Harrison allegedly held a broken bottle and began threatening Hurley’s friends before officer Jim Hogan arrived.
With other officers investigating a shooting and a fatal motorcycle crash at the same time, Hogan was on his own when he reached Romayne and Capri avenues to find “a sea of people.”
“I saw Harrison waving the broken booze bottle at a guy and (decided) that was the first thing to get control of. We started hitting each other and I was able to knock him to the ground,” Hogan said.
But as the 6-foot-3, 280-pound uniformed officer was preparing to handcuff Harrison, Smith allegedly ran up and kicked him in the back of the head.
“My bell was rung,” Hogan said.
And when he turned to begin fighting with Smith, Harrison reportedly got back up and kicked him several times in the groin.
As Smith was getting ready to charge at the officer again, Hurley came up to him.
“I screamed at him to stop, but he’s not one to sit by and watch something happen. He did what he thought was best,” Rachanski said.
“I just thought if they get his gun this is going to be ugly, so I wanted to get his attention,” said Hurley, a former high school wrestler.
Hurley was able to take Smith to the ground as Hogan placed Harrison in handcuffs. Cole stepped in to help his friend grab Smith’s hands so Hogan could cuff those, too.
“He intervened at the perfect time,” Hogan said. “I was totally gassed.”
Harrison and Smith allegedly kept kicking at Hogan even after they were restrained. Witnesses said some people on the street were cheering on the combatants, but several others were calling 911 for more police.
Harrison, of 304 Romayne Ave., and Smith, of 1317 Nelson Road in New Lenox, were booked into the county jail on charges of aggravated battery and resisting a police officer. Harrison also was charged with two counts of domestic battery.
Unable to work
Hurley was hurt, but at the hospital he learned his hand had been broken being slammed to the concrete with his weight and Smith’s weight on top of it.
Hurley, a part-time tow truck driver, does not have health insurance and is unable to work while his hand is in a cast. It appears he will not need surgery, but he won’t know for sure until his hand is examined next month.
“I’m getting recognition because I got hurt, but my friends were there, too,” Hurley stressed, adding the suspects probably are lucky Rachanksi’s pregnancy prevented her from fighting them. The couple is expecting their first child in the fall. Hurley has one child from a previous relationship.
“(Getting recognition) is weird, but I’m happy I could do what I did. I don’t regret doing it,” he said.
But Hogan believes publicizing Hurley’s assistance is the right thing.
“A lot of people would be too scared. For me, it’s a job, but for a private citizen to do that is pretty special,” he said.
Medal of Valor
Mayor Tom Giarrante and Trafton agree. Hurley will be presented with the city’s Medal of Valor at the city council meeting Tuesday.
“Awarding Mr. Hurley with the Medal of Valor and holding a fundraiser for him is the right thing to do for someone who didn’t hesitate to help a woman, her child and a police officer in danger,” said Mayor Giarrante.
The fundraiser will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. July 25 at Heroes West Sports Grill, Interstate 80 and Houbolt Road in Joliet. Tickets cost $20 per person and will be available at the door.