Sheriff’s officials have awarded the Purple Heart award to a Lake County sheriff auxiliary deputy who sustained severe injuries after a drunk driver struck him while he was directing traffic at a fatal crash in Volo in 2019.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg presented Auxiliary Deputy Thomas Brasuell with the Lake County Sheriff’s Purple Heart Award on Saturday.
Idleburg surprised Brasuell with the award at his residence alongside members of the sheriff’s office and sheriff’s auxiliary deputy unit.
The Purple Heart Award is reserved for members of the sheriff’s office who are severely injured in the line of duty, according to officials.
Brasuell was directing traffic on December 23, 2019, while crash investigators were conducting their investigation of a three-vehicle crash that left an 82-year-old man dead and a 20-year-old man seriously injured at Route 12 and Volo Village Road in Volo.
Brasuell was blocking the scene and directing traffic away. While directing traffic, a drunk driver drove his car into Brasuell, severely injuring him.
“To alert drivers that the roadway was closed there were eight traffic cones, numerous flares, and a marked squad car with its emergency lights activated parked perpendicular across the lanes of traffic,” Lake County Sheriff Spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said at the time of the incident.
Chris L. Miller, 65, was driving his 2016 Ford pickup truck southbound on Route 12 around 7 p.m. and disregarded the flares, traffic cones, and emergency lights when he struck the squad car, Covelli said.
The collision caused the squad car to strike Brasuell, who was standing outside of the squad car. The deputy suffered serious leg injuries and was transported by ambulance to an area hospital.
Miller fled in his vehicle southbound from the scene. His truck became disabled due to the damage near Fox Lake Road and Route 12 and he was taken into custody.
Miller, of the 29000 block of North Fairfield Road in unincorporated Mundelein, was charged with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, failure to render aid following an accident, improper lane usage, failure to report an accident, failure to reduce speed and operating an uninsured vehicle.
It took months for Brasuell to recover from the significant injuries he sustained in the crash, sheriff’s officials said.
“I am proud to present Auxiliary Deputy Brasuell the Purple Heart Award, and while he was severely injured, we are thankful he was not killed by the reckless intoxicated driver who struck him,” Idleburg said.
“Our staff report for duty ready to serve the community every day knowing the risks and dangers they potentially face. I am honored to serve alongside such a dedicated group who are deeply devoted to the Lake County community,” he added.