Page 24 - FOP May 2019 Magazine
P. 24

  Portraits by Peter Bucks
Tributes to officers from the CPD Officer, Lodge 7 member and renowned artist
Any officer who has been in- volved in critical lifesaving inci- dents like Richard Soto knows that it’s difficult to put some events into words. It’s some- thing that can’t possibly be understood merely through ex- planation. You had to be there, to feel it, to understand. But when you do, it’s something that sticks with you forever.
For Soto, the adrenaline, in- tensity and emotions experi- enced during the two incidents that earned him lifesaving awards have yet to wear off, even years later.
“Those incidents were tre- mendously stressful, but tre- mendously satisfying,” Soto remarks. “The only way I can describe my career is that I have been the right guy, at the right time, in the right place.”
officer trapped inside, assuring him that he was going to make it out alive.
Soto’s vital lifesaving instinct kicked in again when he spot- ted a line of tractor trailers stopped in traffic. He imme- diately started running to the vehicles and instructing the drivers to open the emergen- cy hatches, where he was able to grab fire extinguishers that were used to put out the vehi- cle’s flames before the fire de- partment arrived to pry open the door.
“It was a total team effort, just the ultimate sense of ca- maraderie, working together with Chicago officers,” Soto ex- plains. “Nothing else was a fac- tor. All that mattered was that he was blue, and we were get- ting him the hell out of danger. Moments like that stick with you for the rest of your life.”
The permanency of these memories and the intense emotions attached to them make it easy for Soto to dis- tinguish these incidents as the best days of his 20-year career in law enforcement. They were the reason he took the oath of service on May 10, 1999, when he became a Chicago Police
Department officer.
“My heart was full, because I had saved somebody’s
life,” Soto shares. “I think that is one of the ultimate things that can happen on the job — a life gets saved, and you get to
go home at the end of it. It is extremely gratifying.”
Though the lifesaving awards from these events that both took place in the 9th District mark two of Soto’s proudest moments, the number of valuable lessons that he has learned each step of his ca- reer are limitless. Soto’s time on the job has taken him from the 4th District to the 3rd District, before he spent nearly a decade in the 9th District. Soto even served six months on the bodyguard detail for Mayor Richard Daley before joining the Mass Transit Unit 701 in 2011, where, to this day, seasoned veterans on the job consider
him a kid on the watch.
Though his experiences on the job and impact on the city of
Chicago categorize him as anything but a rookie, even Soto recog- nizes that there is still so much to learn in this profession that con- stantly calls upon officers to adapt, grow, and serve in new ways.
“You should constantly be learning on this job,” Soto says. “You never know it all. You shouldn’t. You need to be accepting of new experiences and education, always.”
 Soto’s philosophy played
out like a scene from a super-
hero movie on the day that he
was on patrol in 009 as a field
training officer. He heard a call
come over the radio of a chok-
ing infant only a few blocks
away. By the time he arrived
on the scene, two officers were
waiting with a frantic moth-
er for the paramedics to arrive. In the mother’s arms lay
an infant, no more than a few weeks old, gasping for air
with lips that were quickly turning blue. Soto’s former ex- perience working as an EMT kicked into gear immediate-
ly. Before he could even process what was happening, he had the child upside-down in his arms, giving swift palm strikes to the child’s back.
“Some formula came out, and then the baby started a blood-cur- dling cry which told me that the child was receiving oxygen,” Soto remembers vividly. “My instincts took over, and I just did it with- out even thinking. I feel that God chose me to be there that day.”
Not long after Soto helped a newborn child take a lifesaving breath, Soto was rushing to another scene where a life was at risk of slipping away. This time, it was one of his own — a brother in blue — who was trapped in a car engulfed in flames.
“It was a horrible car accident, and he was pinned inside,” Soto details. “Flames were coming in from the floorboard, and he was screaming as we were trying to get him out.”
Soto still remembers the blazing heat as he tells the story. He recalls the chaos and screams as if it happened yesterday. And nothing could ever erase the memory of holding the hand of the
‘My heart was full’
    RICHARD SOTO JR. Star #15061

   22   23   24   25   26