Aguirre’s Bravery, Humanity Earn Honor of Kane County Police Officer of the Year
With flames and thick, choking smoke surrounding him, Aurora police officer Samuel Aguirre laid on the hood of a crashed truck on Illinois Interstate 88 to aid and comfort to injured driver Vincent Petrella in the final moments of Petrella’s life, and for that act of bravery and humanity, Aguirre has been named the 2015 Kane County Police Officer of the Year.
According to a press release issued today (Thursday, May 14, 2015), Aguirre was selected for the honor among 16 nominees for the Kane County Chiefs of Police Association’s Louis Spuhler Award, which recognizes the top police officer in the county. A full list of the nominees and their departments is presented below.
“Our entire law enforcement community is proud of Officer Aguirre and the bravery and compassion that he showed on that day,” said Kane County Chiefs of Police Association President David Kintz. “All of the nominations were examples of excellent police work that officers all over Kane County provide each and every shift.”
Aguirre received the award, hosted by the Chiefs of Police Association and the Batavia Moose Lodge #682, during the annual banquet held May 6 at Pheasant Run Resort.
In his recommendation of Aguirre, Lt. Pete Inda expressed condolences to Petrella’s family and praise for Aquirre’s selfless actions.
“Officer Aquirre stayed with the driver to comfort him in his final moments,” he said. “This man’s family was able to know that someone was with him, giving him comfort as he passed.”
The following is a summary of the incident taken from the nomination letter submitted by Aurora Police Chief Chief Gregory Thomas:
On Jan. 21, 2014, at approximately 1922 hours, the Aurora Police Department dispatch received a call from the Illinois State Police requesting our assistance to help locate Trooper Douglas Balder, who was not answering his radio. Trooper Balder was assisting a stranded semi-truck when it was discovered that Trooper Balder’s squad, with him in it, was hit by a semi-truck driving east bound on I-88, just east of Eola Road.
Several Aurora Police Department units responded to the crash. Upon arrival, officers found Trooper Balder’s vehicle on fire, wedged underneath the offending semi. They also found a tollway maintenance truck on fire with the maintenance worker, Vincent Petrella, stuck inside the cab of his truck.
Officer Brian Hester assisted in rendering first aid to Trooper Balder, while Officer Samuel Aguirre and Officer David Brian attempted to get Mr. Petrella out of his burning vehicle.
While Officer Brian was attempting to open the driver’s side door, he saw Officer Aguirre climb onto the hood of truck in an attempt to comfort the trapped driver. Officer Brian observed Officer Aguirre holding the hands of Vincent Petrella, telling him to hang on and that help was there. Officer Brian also noticed that Officer Aguirre had removed the broken windshield from the truck with his bare hands and stayed close to Mr. Petrella, despite the heavy smoke and fire.
At one point, Officer Brian said Officer Aguirre yelled to him, saying he saw the driver blink his eyes indicating that he was still alive. Officer Brian commented that at times the smoke was so thick he could hardly breathe, and he didn’t know how Officer Aguirre was able to stay with the driver under those conditions.
Officer Brian said that Officer Aguirre stayed on top of the truck’s hood with Mr. Petrella, even though the vehicle was on fire, and Aurora Fire Department trucks on the scene had run out of water. Officer Aguirre remained with Vincent Petrella until he was removed from his vehicle.
2015 Kane County Police Officer of the Year Nominees
Each officer was nominated for work done in 2014.
Aurora Police Department
- Officer Samuel Aguirre
- Officer David Bemer
Elgin Police Department
- Det. Miguel Pantoja
Geneva Police Department
- Sgt. Mike Frieders
- Det. Matt Dean
- Det. Brad Jerdee
- Det. Bob Pech
- Det. Sarah Sullivan
- Officer Matt Hann
Kane County Sheriff
- Chief Deputy Thomas Bumgarner
- Deputy Raul Salinas
Montgomery Police Department
- Sgt. Greg Sullivan
South Elgin Police Department
- Officer Roger Isham
St Charles Police Department
- Officer Timothy Beam
Sleepy Hollow Police Department
- Officer Michael Gallagher
- Officer KC Brox
About the Louis Spuhler Award
The Louis Spuhler Award is named after a retired Lieutenant from the Kane County Sheriff who approached the Batavia Moose Lodge with an idea to recognize the top police officer in the county. Lt. Spuhler passed away before he could see his idea put into action. The award was named in his honor. This was the 37th annual event.