‘He’s our brother’
Clearing, Garfield Ridge mourn Officer Vásquez Lasso
By Tim Hadac
Chicago Police Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez Lasso didn’t live in Clearing or Garfield Ridge—he lived east of the airport, in West Lawn—but he and his family were essentially adopted by as many as 700 men, women and children here earlier this month.
“Even though most of us never had the pleasure of meeting him, he’s our brother, in a way. He’s our guy, and his family is our family,” Garfield Ridge Civic League President Jason Huff said. “And while it was mostly people from Clearing and Garfield Ridge at the prayer service, I saw people from other [Southwest Side] neighborhoods there, too. So it shows, I think, that there are a lot of good people in this city who understand the importance of what our police do, and who are grateful for them.”
Huff was one of about 700 people who attended a March 3 candlelight prayer service at Hale Park, just two days after Officer Vásquez Lasso was shot and killed while on duty. His widow, Milena, and her family were among the mourners in attendance.
The 32-year-old officer was shot multiple times, including in the head, by a man he was chasing on foot near 53rd and Spaulding at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 1. He was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital but was pronounced dead.
Police had been responding to a “man with a gun” call they said was domestic related.
Before falling to the ground, Officer Vásquez Lasso managed to return fire, striking the suspect–18-year-old Little Village resident Steven Montano.
Montano was taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. A judge denied bond, and Montano’s next court date is set for Wednesday, March 22 at 26th and California.
More from Hale Park
Quite a few law enforcement officers were at the prayer service and Huff said it was moving to see the emotion in their eyes.
“This has really hit them hard, of course,” he said. “It makes it that much more important that the rest of us reach out to them and show support.”
The event at Hale Park was organized by Clearing resident Jennifer New, a driving force behind the non-denominational Prayer in the Park series created a couple of years ago.
With Officer Vásquez Lasso’s widow, Milena, and family, New prayed the Survivors Prayer, in one of the most emotional moments of the night:
Good and Gracious God, we are Survivors seeking healing for our broken hearts and broken spirits.
We are Survivors seeking understanding of something that is incomprehensible.
We are Survivors seeking comfort, in an inconsolable situation.
We are Survivors seeking faith, where our faith is being challenged and tested.
We are Survivors seeking hope, where all seems hopeless.
We are Survivors seeking love, a love that has been taken from us, yet we desperately cling to it.
We are Survivors seeking peace, peace in the knowledge that our loved one is with you, and, that one day, we will find peace in our hearts.
Lord, we thank you for your love and for the bond we Survivors share. We find strength in you and in one another.
Dear Lord, travel with all of us on our journey of healing. We pray that in your power and love, and through each other, we will find all that we seek.
A day after the prayer service, New said, “It’s been incredible to see our community come together in love and support during this difficult time of mourning our fallen officer. This is exactly what we should do for one another as Christians.
“Please remember to do the same for our neighbors who may be hurting or in need. Some of our Prayer in the Park friends are going through difficult times. If you’re able, reach out and offer to drop off a meal or run an errand for someone who’s sick. Offer to pray with someone who needs comfort. Connect with each other over lunch or a walk. No matter what church we attend (or don’t attend), we are brothers and sisters in Christ.”
New credited a number others with making the event at Hale Park a success, including her mother, Tracie Ellis (known locally for hosting backyard barbecues to thank police officers), Hope Church Midway Pastor Jj Molodecki and his wife, Jennifer; Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo; local business leaders Geno Randazzo and Jose Yanez and others.
Also speaking at the event to offer words of comfort were Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Bryan Spreyne, 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares and others.
Of her husband, Milena said, “It will never be a goodbye, it will be a ‘See you soon’ to my favorite person, my best friend, my travel and adventure partner who will always be in my heart. To the best human being God could have given me. Your chivalry until the last day, your infinite love, nobility, joy will always be in my memories.
“I’m grateful for every minute that God allowed me to share with you,” she continued. “I would have wished to hug you tighter that Wednesday morning before I took off, to give you more goodbye kisses. If only I had imagined that it was the last time I would see you alive. You dedicated your life doing what you loved most, every day you went to work with a smile from ear to ear. Thank you for being the best husband, dog dad, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend. You leave a hopeless void in our hearts. Rest in peace, my sweetheart.”
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