A police officer has been awarded a Medal of Valor for saving a young woman who was shot by her boyfriend in front of their young child over the summer in Gurnee.
The incident unfolded in the 6700 block of Derby Drive in Gurnee around 9:30 p.m. on July 3.
Gurnee Police Officer Dan Ruth and Officer Tom Branick were the first officers to arrive at the scene.
They located a female, identified as Eboni Hardge, with a gunshot wound to her stomach lying on the floor of the apartment. Her toddler son was next to her.
Hardge told officers that the shooter was still in the apartment and she pointed to where he was.
“Aware of the imminent threat to their safety and the safety of others, the two officers forced open the locked screen door in an attempt to rescue the female and her toddler,” the Gurnee Police Department said.
The toddler began to run back into the apartment and Officer Ruth was able to talk with the child and have him come back.
Officer Ruth picked up the child and took him safely out of the apartment as Officer Branick provided cover from the armed shooter inside, police officials said.
Officer Tom Yencich arrived at the scene and carried the Hardge away from the apartment and brought her to the rescue staging area that was established.
The Gurnee Fire Department arrived with an ambulance and transported the woman to the hospital. The child was unharmed during the shooting.
Officer Ruth directed incoming responding officers to establish a perimeter around the apartment. He also deployed two teams to each of the apartment’s doors while Officer Yencich attempted to make contact with the shooter.
Officer Ruth provided the officers with helmets, shields, tactical supply bags and medical kits. He initiated the evacuation of residents from nearby apartments and moved them to safety.
Officer Ruth briefed command staff when they arrived at the location and assisted with managing the scene until relieved by SWAT personnel with the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS).
The suspect was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The three officers were recognized and honored for their “exceptional service, bravery, and heroism” during a Village of Gurnee board meeting Monday evening, police officials said.
The Medal of Valor was presented to Officer Ruth for his bravery and heroism beyond the normal demands of police service, officials said.
The Meritorious Service Award was given to Officer Branick and Officer Yencich for their exceptional service in a stressful emergency situation.
Hardge, who survived the incident, surprised the officers by attending the board meeting.
“Nothing I can say substitutes seeing the survivor here tonight. I’ve actually thought about her almost every day. We were there at the scene, but we don’t always know what happens after. You can’t help but wonder what they’re going through. Just seeing her here makes my day,” Officer Branick said.
“It is my honor to present these awards for the fine work that the officers do every day in our community. Especially in this incident, where they responded to a life or death situation and they reacted appropriately to save a life and a family,” Gurnee Police Chief Brian Smith said.
“These officers serve with compassion on a daily basis. We are proud of them and we thank them for everything that they do,” Smith added.