'He's a hero': Fiancee speaks as Chicago police officer paralyzed from shooting recovers

ByMichelle Gallardo, Eric Horng, and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Friday, July 15, 2022
Hundreds attend prayer vigil for CPD officer paralyzed by gunfire
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A prayer service was held at St. Rita Thursday night for CPD officer Danny Golden who was shot and paralyzed while trying to break up a fight.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of people attended a prayer service at St. Rita Thursday night for a Chicago police officer who was shot and paralyzed while trying to break up a fight while he was off-duty.

Among the attendees was the family of Chicago Police Officer Danny Golden. Golden watched the service remotely and recorded a message for those who attened.

"I'm working hard to get back out there," he said in the video. "Thanks for everything. To my family and friends, thanks for everything."

His father said Golden's chest tube was removed Thursday as he continues to recover at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.

"He's going to be with us. He's going to be watching from his hospital room. We want him to see the outpouring of love and support and hope," said Father Tom Mccarthy with St, Rita of Cascia High School.

Officer Golden's ties to St. Rita's High School run deep. Father McCarthy is a longtime friend of the family and has been in close touch with them since the shooting early Saturday morning when Golden tried to break up a fight that broke out inside Beverly's Sean Rhino's bar before spilling out onto the street.

The prayer service is as much for Golden as it is for his loved ones, Fr. McCarthy said.

"Danny would want this, for all of this family and friends to give hope. Also, that we're all in this together, that as brothers and sisters we have to be here to support each other," Fr. McCarthy added.

RELATED: 3 charged in Beverly shooting that paralyzed off-duty CPD officer

Briefly wheeled out of the hospital to greet well-wishers on Tuesday, Golden appeared in good spirits, even as a bullet remains lodged between his lungs.

A six-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who also served in the Army for four years, Golden has been described by loved ones as nothing short of a hero.

"It's just something that's unexplainable," Casey Szaflarski, Officer Golden's fiancée, said. "Kind of like a nightmare."

Szaflarski said she's still trying to wrap her head around what happened.

Golden was off-duty Saturday when he stepped in to stop a fight between a group of men at Sean's Rhino Bar in Beverly.

Prosecutors said 19 shell casings were recovered from the scene. Golden was shot in the back while a second man was shot in the leg.

"He's one of the strongest people I've ever met in my entire life," Szaflarski said. "He was told he could never walk again and all he keeps talking about is he's just happy he was able to de-escalate the situation from other people getting hurt."

While the third-generation police officer's life will never be the same, his fiancée said Golden does not regret intervening in the fight that led to his injuries.

"He's one of the strongest people I've ever met in my entire life," Szaflarski said. "He was told he could never walk again and all he keeps talking about is he's just happy he was able to deescalate the situation from other people getting hurt."

Officer Golden and Szaflarski are set to get married in October 2023. Their lives now changed forever by the incident, but the two strongly believe he was meant to be there.

"I know in my heart other people would've been hurt if not dead and he does too," Szaflarski. "He took that role as an officer and his duty was to protect everyone there that night."

19th Ward Alderman Matt O'Shea said Thursday Golden is intended to return to service as a police officer after his recovery.

"Knowing this young man. You mark my words. He will be back in uniform with the Chicago Police Department in some capacity," O'Shea said.

While many have reached out in support, there's no shortage of other kindness. The community rallied to raise more than $1 million through a GoFundMe for his recovery.

Star NFL quarterback Tom Brady even chimed in with a few words of support for the officer.

"What's up Danny...so sorry to hear about what you're going through and just know thinking about you....appreciate all your hard work and your commitment to service," Brady said in the video.

Golden was often seen in the community playing basketball or jumping rope with kids.

"I just want everyone to know he's a hero," Szaflarski said.

Three men have been charged and are being held in connection with the shooting, which allows his loved ones to focus on Golden's recovery.

Officer Carlos Yañez, who was injured in the line of duty last Summer when his partner, Ella French was killed, also attended the prayer service.