The rescue of a young boy from the frigid waters of the Des Plaines River last March was cited as one of the reasons Evanston police officer Sean O’Brien was selected to receive the January Officer of the Month Award from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers recognizes federal, state, and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.

Officer O’Brien will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington in May during National Police Week. In addition, his story of heroism and service will be featured in the Fund’s annual calendar.

Here is how the Fund described his rescue of a 7-year-old boy from the Des Plaines River:

On March 5, 2013, Officer Sean O’Brien was spending his day off running errands with his girlfriend. As they headed home in the midst of a snowstorm, they observed a young boy playing in the snow alone, throwing snowballs at passing vehicles. Out of concern for the boy’s safety, and due to the increasingly dangerous weather conditions that day, Officer O’Brien pulled his vehicle off to the shoulder of the road and set out to speak to the child.

As the officer approached, the young boy became agitated and ran in the opposite direction, straight for the Des Planes River. Officer O’Brien then saw the child pick up a large chunk of snow, hurl it into the freezing water below him, and jump into the river after it.

Without hesitation, Officer O’Brien followed the boy into the frigid, waist-deep river. Though he could not see the boy, Officer O’Brien faintly noticed the orange Chicago Bears hat the boy was wearing. As quickly as he could, Officer O’Brien pulled the boy out of the river and brought him back to his vehicle. 

He turned the car heater up as high as it would go in an attempt to maintain the child’s body temperature and called emergency services. Shortly after, the child was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment and released later that day. Once the boy’s parents were located, they explained that their son had wandered off from his grandmother’s house to play in the snow.

Earlier story:

Police officer honored for saving child

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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