Officer Richard Francis left us today. A 60-year-old Vietnam War combat veteran, the first Chicago police officer shot to death in the line of duty since 2002, Francis died today as he struggled with a mentally ill woman who grabbed his gun and shot him in the head.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Francis, a 27-year police veteran, was alone on patrol in a squad car when a CTA bus driver flagged him down.
The CTA driver was worried about a woman at a bus stop who became verbally abusive when the eastbound bus stopped on Belmont to let passengers out.
The driver did not open the doors and honked the horn to flag down Francis, who stopped to help, Belmont District Cmdr. John Kenny said.
The woman struggled with Francis and grabbed his revolver, shooting him once. She was shot after threatening the officers who responded to Francis’ call for backup, police said.
“Police said.” The journalist’s disclaimer that everything is alleged at this point.
And it is.
The only thing that is not alleged today is that Officer Richard Francis, 60, is dead.
Mayor Daley said Francis’ death is a “sad reminder of how much gratitude we owe to the men and women of the Chicago Police Department.”
Amen, Mayor. Amen.
“It’s a tragic loss for his family. It’s a terrible loss for the Chicago Police Department,” police Supt. Jody Weis said outside the hospital. “It’s a stark reminder of what the dangers that the officers of this department face every day.”
And “Amen” again.
“I don’t think he would ever quit,” said a lifelong friend, Tom Casey. “They’d have to force him off.”
“Before he was married, he would volunteer to take holidays so the cops with families could take time off,” Casey said. “That’s the type of guy he was.”
And again from friend, Tom Casey:
Francis preferred to work at night, when there was more action, Casey said. He started in the East Chicago District where Cabrini-Green is located.
“It was a rough neighborhood, but he liked it,” Casey said.
Francis married his wife, Deborah, about 10 years ago, Casey said.
“The children weren’t biologically his, but he raised them,” said Barbara Rehn, who lives across the street. “He called them his ‘kids’ and they called him ‘dad.’ ”
From Susan Fracek:
“I have two siblings who are Chicago Police officers,” said Susan Fracek, who lives near Francis’ home. “It’s incredibly hard.”
“He was a wonderful guy,” she said.
“It was hard to believe he was a cop,” added Casey. “His demeanor was so calm and polite and funny. Knowing this guy, he was probably trying to help this woman.”
They seem so cold sometimes, the police. We slow down when we see them driving near us, watch carefully in the rear view mirror if they’re following us.
But they’re human. All of them.
Today, one of them breathed his last.
And he’s gone forever.
One of the good guys was shot today.
And we are less for it.