On May 12, 2017 Officer Martin Hernandez and his partner Officer Joel Lopez were working as plainclothes tactical officers in the Harrison district on Chicago’s west side. The officers observed what they believed to be a drug transaction between a woman and a man on the 4600 block of Maypole. As Officer Hernandez exited their vehicle to investigate, the woman clutched at her side and ran away from the officers. Officer Hernandez believed the woman was concealing a firearm and immediately chased her on foot. The woman – a felon on bond for aggravated assault of police officer in February of this year – turned and shot at the officers. One of the bullets struck Officer Hernandez in the chest. Both Officer Hernandez and Lopez returned gunfire and the woman was shot in her upper body. A handgun was recovered at the scene. Thankfully, Officer Hernandez was wearing his bullet proof vest which saved his life that afternoon. Both Officers were taken to Loyola Medical center and released later that evening. The woman was subsequently charged with the Attempted Murder of Officer Hernandez. Superintendent Eddie Johnson credited the vest with saving Officer Hernandez’s life.
This underscores the dangers faced by every working Chicago Police Officer as they encounter the rising violence on Chicago’s streets. Thankfully, both Officers reacted to this act of violence against them and stopped the threat which presented itself to them while they were simply doing their job protecting the citizens of Chicago. While Officer Hernandez’s vest saved his life, the outcome could have been much different if the vest was expired and failed to stop that fatal bullet. That is why the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation initiated the “Get Behind the Vest Program” with the goal to help Officers replace expired ballistic vests. To date this program has raised over $2.2 million dollars which has allowed us to replace over 7,000 vests; the vests that protect our officers every day, just like the vest that saved Officer Hernandez. Today we honor Officer Martin Hernandez and Officer Joel Lopez and salute them for the actions they took that Friday afternoon. We are proud to recognize them as our July officers of the month.