The Southern Illinoisan
August 28, 2012
By Linda Rush
Four Illinois State Police officers from Southern Illinois and an Elkville Police Department sergeant were among 69 law enforcement officers honored Monday in Springfield with the Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon presented the awards in a ceremony held at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center.
Award recipients all displayed exceptional bravery and heroism while serving their communities, Simon said in a news release.
Those honored and their hometowns are Trooper Blaine G. McBride of Murphysboro, Master Sgt. William D. Sons of Carterville, Trooper Brian Wilson of Ava and Trooper Robert D. Swift of Benton, all of the state police; and Sgt. Clay McDonnough of the Elkville Police Department.
McBride, Sons, Wilson and McDonnough were cited for their courage during a fire March 6, 2009, at an apartment building in Elkville in which a 5-year-old girl and her mother died.
The citation said the four officers arrived at the fire to find “a chaotic scene of hysterical family members and residents,” with the local fire department in need of help. The police tried to gain entry through a stairwell but were turned back by heavy smoke. Getting a ladder, they climbed to the roof of an adjoining building. From there, they gained access to an apartment across the hall from the apartment that was on fire. They awakened and helped several residents to safety. “They also assisted firefighters by running hose lines and relaying air tanks,” the citation reads.
Swift was honored for his bravery during a high-speed chase of a robbery suspect Jan. 5, 2009, on Interstate 55.
He was among state, county and local officers engaged in high-speed pursuit of a robbery suspect. Police used stop sticks, which caused the suspect to crash his vehicle. He exited, armed with what appeared to be a handgun, then jumped the median and ran across lanes of traffic pointing the gun at motorists.
Trooper Swift commanded him to stop and drop the weapon, but the suspect kept running. Believing the man would harm occupants of the car or other officers, Swift fired one round, fatally wounding the suspect. A later investigation showed the handgun was actually a BB gun that was intentionally modified to appear authentic, the citation said.
The Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor was established by law in 1990 and awarded annually until 2010. This year, the awarding committee was re-established; those honored Monday were chosen based on their actions in incidents from 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“Our law enforcement officers do an incredible job protecting our communities and keeping us safe,” Simon said. “We owe it to them to ensure their work environment is as safe as possible.”