Impact of Chicago police officer's murder ripples through first responders' families

CPD chaplain spoke talks about ministry, how putting faith first in times of crisis can help heal spiritual wounds

Saturday, March 4, 2023
CPD chaplain talks about ministry, how putting faith first can help heal spiritual wounds
Fr. Dan Brandt said when one of their brothers or sisters in blue is ripped away through violence in the line of duty, a piece of the department's soul is torn as well.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Whenever a police officer loses their life, the ripples are felt throughout the city and in the hearts of every Chicago police officer.

CPD Chaplain, Father Dan Brandt, spoke about his ministry and how putting faith first in times of crisis can help heal spiritual wounds.

"It's something that every day goes through the mind of every officer: 'it could have been me.' And every day, that they put on that uniform it could be them. And they know that and their families know that," Fr. Brandt said.

Fr. Brandt has ministered with the Chicago Police department for 20 years. He said in just the last 12, he's helped lay to rest at least 20 officers, and will again with Officer Andres Vasquez Lasso.

RELATED | Chicago police officer shot, killed as kids played outside Gage Park school: prosecutors

Prosecutors revealed details about the murder of Officer Andres Vasquez-Lasso. He was allegedly shot by Steven Montano outside Sawyer Elementary School.

"They're doing God's work, and the death of our brother Andres is not in vain," Fr. Brandt said. "He died doing God's work, and frankly, he probably saved at least one life. Sadly he lost his."

Brandt said when one of their brothers or sisters in blue is ripped away through violence in the line of duty, a piece of the department's soul is torn as well.

"I was talking to an officer yesterday whose son caught him crying - 10-year-old son caught dad crying -- and dad wants to be strong for his kids and not scare the kids, and let them know this is certainly a possibility, but it is," Fr. Brandt said.

Officer Vasquez Lasso's wife and family are mourning.

"He did have a lovely wife who is going to miss him like crazy now. And her family is all in Columbia so she has no one now and it's heartbreakin, and the officers feel it because when one is cut, all bleed," Fr. Brandt said.

But Brandt said through faith, healing can begin. Not just in Vasquez Lasso's family, but for his fellow police officers as well, despite the uncertainty they face every day.

"The fact that people want to go into this line of work still speaks to the profound sacred nature of this vocation," Fr. Brandt said. "Just the outpouring of support of love and support for the community means the world to our guys and gals out there. And I encourage people, if you're a person of faith prayer changes things."

After speaking with ABC7, Brandt went to minister to new CPD recruits at the police academy to tell them God is working through them.

Impact of Chicago police officer's murder ripples through first responders' families

No one knows the pain more than Maria Marmolejo, whose husband Eduardo was killed by a train while investigating a shots fired call in 2018.

A line of police vehicles made its way through Chicago Friday as the body of fallen officer Andres Vasquez Lasso was taken to a funeral home. People stood along the sidewalk and saluted as the ambulance rolled past.

The impact of that tragedy is felt by people all over the city, including the families of first responders who have lost their own loved ones in the line of duty.

From the time her only child was a toddler, Sonya Shaw said her son Stephen had a talkative and persuasive personality. Shaw thought he was going to be a lawyer, but he wanted to do something else.

"As he got a little older, he started expressing, you know, I want to be in law enforcement," Shaw said. "And I'm like, 'What? During this this climate we are in, are you sure?'"

Stephen Shaw told his mother being a police officer is his calling. The 30-year-old will graduate from the Chicago Police Academy next week.

"When your child tells you something is their calling, you really have to step back a parent and reassess and listen and take it all in and support," she said.

But Shaw said her heart dropped when hearing about the Officer Andrés Vásquez Lasso killed in the line of duty.

No one knows the pain more than Maria Marmolejo. Her husband, Eduardo, was killed by a train in 2018 when he and another Chicago police officer were investigating a shots fired call on the South Side.

"When you sign on to do something like this, you are sacrificing everyone's life," said Maria Marmolejo, who also serves as chairwoman of the Gold Star Families. "Everything will change. It has for me, at least."

Concerned about the danger of the job, Marmolejo admitted she was extremely mad when her husband joined the force in his 30s as a father of three girls. But Marmolejo said she understood he was following his passion.

"I had to support him as the wife I am, and I loved him and this was going to be his calling," she said. "He was so proud of it and excited. How could you not support him?"

Marmolejo said the pain never goes away, but it does get better with time. She said it gives her comfort knowing her husband so loved being a police officer and viewed it as his calling.