On Monday night, December 17, two Chicago Police officers were struck and killed by a train while responding to a call of shots fired in the area around 103rd Street and Dauphin Avenue. The officers were struck near 103rd and Cottage Grove.
According to the ABC7 News, “One of the officer’s bodycam videos shows the officers exit their patrol car, go up a hill to the Metra tracks at 103rd and Cottage Grove Avenue and talk about where the offender could have gone.”
“In the distance, the officers can see a train approaching heading north making noise. Police said it possibly masked the sound of another high-speed, Indiana-bound South Shore Line train full of commuters that was only feet behind them. The bodycam video then fades to black. Police said it happened fast and the officers died instantly.” https://abc7chicago.com/body-camera-video-recovered-after-2-cpd-officers-fatally-struck-by-train/4921383/
Both officers were relatively new to the force. Both were fathers and husbands. Thirty-one year old, Conrad Gary had been a Chicago Police officer for eighteen months and leaves behind a wife and a six-month-old daughter. Thirty-seven year old Eduardo Marmolejo, who’d been on the Department for two and half years, leaves behind a wife and three daughters.
Almost immediately, an outpouring of condolences and support flooded out from around the city and state. Mayor Rham Emanuel (D) stated during a press conference, “This knocks you back on your heels… There are no words to express our grief, our sense of loss.” https://abc7chicago.com/2-chicago-police-officers-hit-killed-by-train-while-chasing-suspected-gunman/4920789/
Outgoing Governor Bruce Rauner (R) said in a tweet, “Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and the entire @Chicago_PoliceDepartment.“
Similar sentiments came in from around the country.
It seems that in these days of political vitriol and partisan divisiveness, there are at least a few fundamental things on which people across divides can agree. That this was a tragic loss of life to be mourned is one of those fundamental things, or so, one would think. That you don’t make cruel jokes as little children’s hearts are breaking and they face a scary and uncertain future, having had a Dad that afternoon, and then with sudden horror to find out he wasn’t coming home from work tonight. He was never coming home from work, ever, lost in a split second in a tragic and violent accident. Their young world forever changed, a hole cut into young souls that can and will never be mended. You don’t mock those deaths. You don’t add your own little sprinkle of cruelty to those young broken hearts who are learning much too young just how cruel life can be.
But, of course, it’s not. Even this. Even two men, one white, one Latino, protecting a community from a man firing a gun, are accidentally killed by a train, one week before Christmas, each with little ones at home, is not universally considered tragic. Sadly even this.
The officers were struck and killed around 6:20-6:30 Monday evening. Approximately an hour and a half later, Carl Nyberg, a politically active volunteer in several Aldermanic campaigns and a committee person for the progressive advocacy group Northside Democracy for America (DFA), tweeted the following at 7:49pm: “Two people too stupid to avoid getting hit by a train were given firearms & the authority to kill people by the Chicago Police Department.”
He posted this in response to a news article by Block Club Chicago about the officers’ deaths.
In the days since this tragedy occurred, journalists, the Mayor, the Governor, the Superintendent of Police, all used to seeing people at their worst, used to tragedy, used to seeing the unthinkable, were all audibly and visually moved to tears and near tears while somewhere in Albany Park, bathed in the icy blue glow of a computer screen sat a little man, his soul twisted and dark and disfigured by hate, fighting windmills and patting himself on the back for what he must see as his heroic crusade.
But why? What would drive someone to so coldly and callously disseminate such a thing to the world? He had no personal history with either man. Didn’t know them at all. No past slights. No past arguments or fights. No encounter whatsoever. And still he felt the need to mock their deaths the way a Sox fan might gloat about beating the Tigers.
He wasn’t standing up against injustice. He wasn’t railing against abuse of power. He was simply being mean for the sake of being mean.
And he wasn’t being mean to these two officers. They’re gone. They’ve passed beyond the reach of petty meanness. So Mr. Nyberg’s post has zero impact on them. Who isn’t beyond that reach of cruelty, are the ones those men left behind. Mr. Nyberg was being intentionally mean and cruel to the widows and daughters and parents who just an hour and a half prior lost their loved one, and at the time of the post, were most likely just finding out.
Social media gives voice to everyone, and some of those will be extremists. Some of those will purposely say inflammatory things to garner attention. The idea of obscurity frightens them, I believe. To think that their life is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things inspires them to lash out with the most provocative and attention-grabbing statements they can think of in order to garner the attention they so desperately crave. But obscurity is in the cards for us all.
Name the top ten movie stars of the 1920’s, quick. You can’t? Neither can I. Even the famous are relegated to obscurity after a few decades. The nameless… they’re relegated to obscurity at birth. Such is the case with Carl Nyberg. Only he can’t seem to deal with that. And so he purposely places himself in the spotlight as much as he can. Nonetheless, obscurity is his destiny.
Now in the days of social media when anyone and everyone can garner a large audience if what they say is extreme enough, it’s no surprise that an obscure attention-seeking inconsequential person would post a defamatory tweet in an attempt to prove to himself his own relevance. It happens everyday, though rarely so heartlessly.
What is a surprise, is how long it’s taken and how reluctantly, those associated with Mr. Nyberg were to denounce his hate-speech. Political survival alone should’ve been enough to motivate his friends to denounce his hatred in a heartbeat. But they didn’t.
Within two hours of Nyberg’s tweet, Alderman Raymond Lopez of the 15th Ward took to twitter to publicly denounce and challenge Mr. Nyberg’s post. In comparison, it took almost two full days for Alderman John Arena, through a spokesperson, to do the same. Nyberg has long been a supporter and campaign volunteer for Arena. As of this writing, John Arena has yet to personally, directly, and publicly denounce the words of his long-time supporter, Carl Nyberg, on his social media pages despite a recent visit to the 16th Police District where he vowed support of the Chicago Police officers who patrol his 45thWard.
It also took nearly two full days for the Northside DFA to sever ties with Nyberg and officially denounce his cruelty. That is a curiously long time to decide how to react to something that is so clearly and unarguably wrong, hateful, and mean.
And so on a grey, lonely December morning on the south side of Chicago, a young widow stands flanked by two female Chicago police officers, one gripping her hand, the other cradling a six-month old girl who will never have the chance to get to know and love her Daddy. Shock, sorrow, uncertainty, fear, and the wailing cry of bagpipes are all that fill the frigid air. Today, the scene replays again. Another grieving widow. Three young daughters who’ve lost their Daddy a week before Christmas.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’m brought to tears now at the thought as I have been a few times this week. I’m not alone.
I will never be able to fully comprehend how a tragic event that has brought hardened politicians, cynical journalists, and strangers citywide and across all walks of life to tears can at the same time ignite such hatred and cruelty in the heart of Carl Nyberg and a slow cautious reaction to that cruelty from his political allies.
There is no understanding of it. There are mean people in the world, which is exactly why we need people like Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo to stand up and combat that evil.
As far as Nyberg goes, all that’s left to say is shame on him. May he scuttle back into the hole of obscurity to chase his windmills in the recesses of his darkened heart.
In the meantime, it’s going to be a very long time before this city forgets Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary. Bravery and kindness always outlast cowardice and cruelty.
GoFundMe accounts have been set up for both Gary’s family and Marmolejo’s family. Police on Wednesday confirmed they are official accounts.
Wednesday afternoon, Edward Brown, 24, of Chicago, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Repeated attempts to contact Alderman Arena’s office have gone unanswered. His only comments were to the blockclubchicago.org
My request for comment by the Northside DFA was answered with the following press release: