2015 Valor Awards

Photo Gallery

Valor Award Recipients

Assistant Chief Scott Boman, Oak Lawn Fire Department
At approximately 0518 hrs. on Wednesday February 26th 2014, an Oak Lawn Fire Department engine company was dispatched for a report of smoke in the area of 98th St. and 51st Ave. Upon going enroute, the assignment was upgraded to a structure response due to multiple reports of a house on fire at 9809 S. 51st Ave. This response consisted of: 2 engine companies, 2 ladder trucks, 1 squad company, 2 Advanced Life Support ambulances and 2 Battalion Chiefs. Assistant Chief of Operations Scott Boman (being an early riser), was on his way into work and upon hearing this incident being dispatched, also responded.

The weather conditions at the time of the call were less than favorable. The air temperature was approximately 0 – 5 degrees. There was also a significant amount of accumulated snow on the ground due to a recent storm. The climate conditions made an already hazardous environment even worse.

Being that he was already on the street at the time the call was dispatched; A/C Boman was the first unit to arrive on the scene. He gave a size up (A description of the building and the conditions present), as a one story single family dwelling with moderate smoke conditions emanating from the roof vents and chimney. With his nearly 30 years of fire service experience, A/C Boman knew that this incident possessed elements that needed immediate attention. What neither he nor anyone else that responded knew, was how close this incident came to claiming his life.

Immediately upon exiting his vehicle and giving his size-up, A/C Boman noticed an automobile running with its lights on in the attached garage of the residence. As he proceeded up the driveway into the garage, he observed an individual sitting in the driver’s seat of the car. Scott maneuvered himself in between the subject’s car and another one parked next to it. He intended to advise the individual that he needed to exit the garage, he also wanted to know where exactly is the fire located and if anyone else was still in the house. As he opened the driver’s door of the car, the subject swung a shotgun past Scott, positioning it in front of himself and pulled the trigger, taking his life. It was estimated that the gun missed Scott by less than 12 inches. He immediately made his way out of the garage. Upon exiting, he notified the dispatch center that shots had been fired and it appears someone had just taken their life.

The first arriving company arrived and was greeted by Scott. He informed them of what had just occurred. It was also related that it was unsure as to the number of occupants that may still be in the building, or the exact location of the fire. Upon relaying this information, Scott then initiated the incident command system our department uses during this type of incident.

Initial companies had to force entry through a heavily fortified front door. While this was taking place, other companies made their way into the residence through the attached garage. It was inside this door that they found an additional victim (An adult male); whose life had also been taken by shotgun prior to the fire. As units proceeded deeper into the residence, it was determined that the main body of fire was in the basement. While companies began attacking the basement fire, other companies reported the fire had extended into the first floor and attic area. Recognizing the rapidly advancing fire, along with a frozen fire hydrant, Assistant Chief Boman ordered an immediate withdrawal of all units from the structure. Moments after members had exited the building, a large portion of the first floor collapsed into the basement, the same area where firefighters had been operating minutes earlier. A defensive firefight continued for the next several in hours in sub-freezing temperatures.

As the morning unfolded, it was made apparent that there may still be an adult female and a five year old boy somewhere in the structure. The house was in an extremely unstable condition, the roof and several portions of the walls had caved in, and a majority of the first floor had collapsed into the basement. A thick layer of ice surrounded the entire area.

Under extreme risk, firefighters diligently dug through the debris in the basement attempting to locate a grandmother and small child. After several hours of moving debris by hand in 0 degree temperatures, both the adult female and five year old boy were located and removed. It was readily apparent that their lives had also been taken by shotgun prior to the fire.

An investigation revealed the cause of the fire to be suspicious. Investigators also theorized that the subject in the car had terminated the lives of the child and the grandparents with a shotgun prior to starting the fire. They further believe there were other potential targets as they found multiple rounds of ammunition in the car as well as a round still in the shotgun.

It is believed by many, including myself, that the actions of Assistant Chief Scott Boman in the garage that morning interrupted the subject’s plans of taken additional lives of firefighters and or civilians. Despite the graphic incident that unfolded directly in front of him, A/C Boman was able to remain focused and lead his fellow firefighters that day.

Assistant Chief Scott Boman exemplifies leadership in the fire service, along with living by the motto of Duty, Pride and Tradition.

Detective Christopher Covelli, Lake County Sheriff’s Department
Cyber Crimes Against Children is Detective Covelli’s area of expertise, where he aggressively pursues predators who prey on our children. This past year, he affected 25 proactive arrests of criminals sexually exploiting children. Detective Covelli was able to obtain confessions in 100% of these cases. Due to his interview skills, he elicited confessions from two separate individuals who committed predatory criminal sexual assault of a child; even though Detective Covelli was only aware they possessed child pornography. Due to these confessions, six children were rescued from homes where sexual abuse was occurring. All six children are now in foster homes and being monitored by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. One specific incident follows.

In April of 2014 Detective Covelli executed a search warrant for child pornography at a residence in Zion. Upon entering the residence it was learned the offender had 10 children who were living at the residence ranging from seven to twenty-three years of age. As there was not enough bedroom space for all of the children and parents to live, there were children sleeping at various locations throughout the house. This included on the floor in the living room. The offender’s home was in complete derelict condition, with spoiled food and mold located throughout the house.

Detective Covelli began interviewing the male homeowner, who was the biological father of all the children in the house. Detective Covelli suspected the offender was the responsible party for downloading and sharing child pornography from the residence, but at the time of the interview had no evidence to substantiate that. After a lengthy conversation with the offender, Detective Covelli successfully elicited a confession from the offender where he admitted he was the household member responsible for downloading and sharing child pornography. The offender admitted to possessing hundreds of imaged of child pornography on his personal computer and he explained how he would “bury” the child pornography he acquired in folder after folder, in an attempt to hide the child pornography from anyone who may use his computer.

Detective Covelli didn’t stop the interview after the initial confession of the offender. He continued speaking to the offender regarding the possibility he committed hand on sexual abuse. The offender first denied being a hands on sexual offender. As Detective Covelli continued to speak to the offender, he eventually admitted to sexually abusing two children. As the conversation progressed, the offender admitted the two children he had sexually abused were two of his biological daughters.

The offender in this case reluctantly admitted he sexually abused two of his daughters over a three year period. The abuse occurred when his daughters were between the ages of six and nine. He admitted to molesting his daughters on more than 200 occasions. Detective Covelli obtained evidence to corroborate the offender’s confession. The offender was subsequently charged with multiple counts of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child, Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse and Child Pornography charges.

All of the minor children were successfully rescued from the sexual abuse that was occurring by their own father. They were removed from the offender’s home and are all in DCFS protective custody to this day. The offender has subsequently pled guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing for this case.

Detective Covelli is committed to service in Lake County, as he is a member of the LCSO School Safety Team, presents internet/cyber safety to parents and school personnel and is a member of Stevenson High School’s parent group, Stand Strong Coalition, which fights against student drug and alcohol use. Detective Covelli is a leader in Lake County in the detection, apprehension, and conviction of those who hide behind the Internet to exploit our children. Detective Covelli’s strong record of achievement, his diverse set of investigative capabilities and willingness to help others makes him an excellent Detective and recipient of the 100 Club of Chicago Valor Award.

Firefighter Timothy Kluchka and Firefighter Sterling Ricketts, North Chicago Fire Department
On May 17th, 2014, the North Chicago Fire Department was called for a person with a dog bite.

Police were on scene with a person in front of the house holding a large German Sheppard.

Arriving crews found a 78 year old woman with multiple bite wounds and profuse bleeding. The bleeding so profound, it began to travel down the steps of the residence.

As the paramedics approached the patient, the person holding the dog said that he couldn’t restrain the dog much longer. The dog began to kick and started snapping at the bystander holding the dog. As the crew made patient contact we heard a yell “watch out!” We turned to see the dog working his way loose from the bystander and started to lunge towards us.

Firefighter, Tim Kluchka, grabbed the dog by the back of the neck and rear legs and pinned the dog to the ground while Firefighter, Sterling Ricketts, performed a rapid trauma assessment of the elderly women. While FF Kluchka restrained the dog, FF Ricketts rapidly moved the patient to the ambulance for assessment and safety. The dog continued to struggle trying to get loose, snapping and kicking. FF Kluchka took a piece of rope and tied the dog’s legs together, then returned to the ambulance to assist his partner and on coming crew with treatment. FF Sterling Ricketts applied multiple 4×4’s and trauma dressings, holding them to either side of the patient’s neck as assistance arrived. Crew immediately began transport to Advocate Condell Medical Center initiating advanced life support while en-route.

I am confident that because of the actions of my firefighters, their quick thinking, rapid assessment, treatment and transport of this patient and the unorthodox interventions of the crew, they saved this elderly woman’s life as well as protecting other people in the area including nearby children.

When I asked for nominations from my department for this distinguished award, a firefighter had mentioned this call to me solely based on the treatment and subsequent recovery of this patient. Admittedly, not until I inquired was I aware of the heroics of this crew on that day.

I thank you for the opportunity to recognize my personnel that have gone above and beyond the call of their duty.

Captain Edward Kulbida, Chicago Police Department
On October 7, 2014, Captain Edward Kulbida, along with other Chicago Police Officers and United States Marshals, were attempting to serve an arrest warrant on a suspect, who was wanted in the State of Indiana on multiple counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Acting on credible information that the subject was hiding in his sister’s apartment, the Officers and Marshalls set up a perimeter around the apartment building. Captain Kulbida, and several additional officers went to the rear of the building while others relocated to the front. Upon attempting to make entry to the front door of the apartment, the suspect produced a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun and fired at the officers. The officers attempted to transmit over the radio that shots were fired at the police but due to being in an enclosed vestibule, the transmission was garbled. Hearing the shots in the rear Captain Kulbida ran to the front of the building to assist the Officers who were being fired upon. Kulbida entered the vestibule and spoke to the Officers inside. In order to clearly transmit a warning to responding units and avoid a possible ambush Captain Kulbida stepped out of the enclosed vestibule and was able to broadcast to the others to stay away from the building due to heavy gunfire. As Captain Kulbida was giving this warning he was struck in the head and shoulder by gunfire. Officers returned fire at the offender, enabling Captain Kulbida to make it to the relative safety of the apartment vestibule with the other officers.

A seriously wounded Kulbida, along with the other Officers, were pinned down inside of the vestibule of this apartment building by continuous gunfire from the offender. Fearing for the life of the wounded Captain and knowing that an exit through the front was impossible because of a hail of gunfire a plan was formulated to make entry through the nearest apartment. The wait took 20 to 30 minutes, but Kulbida said it “seemed like for an eternity,” Using ballistic shields, Officers escorted the critically wounded Captain through an adjacent apartment to a waiting Chicago Fire Department ambulance where he was taken to Stroger Hospital with a gunshot wound to the head and shoulder resulting in a broken jaw and clavicle. Captain Edward Kulbida will forever be reminded of the day by the bullet still lodged in his upper right cheekbone.

The remaining officers and marshals stayed in the adjacent apartment and kept the offender under cover until their relief by assisting units. The offender Daniel Brown was eventually arrested by the Chicago Police Department SWAT unit and a protracted barricade incident.

Because of Captain Kulbida’s bravery and courage to warn the other officers no one else was seriously injured. Captain Kulbida said “I want to show he didn’t defeat me,” “He wanted to take me away from my loved ones and that is not gonna happen.” Kulbida was promoted to Commander at a ceremony on Monday at Navy Pier. Congratulations.

Captain/EMT Michael Scarnavack, Chicago Fire Department
On April 15, 2014 at approximately 1804 hours Captain Scarnavack, Commanding Engine Company 62 on Chicago’s Southeast side responded to a reported structure with fire on the first floor.

The office of Emergency Management notified Engine 62 while enroute, of a report of people trapped on the second floor of the structure.

Upon arrival Captain Scarnavack reported a fire in a 2 story 30’ x 50’ frame building and ordered his members to lead out to the 1st floor to begin fire attack. Captain Scarnavack immediately entered the structure to begin a search of the stairwell leading to the 2nd floor. Once making it to the top of the stairwell, under extreme heat and dense smoke conditions he located an unconscious adult female. He removed her to the first floor and passed her to waiting medical personnel. He then made a second attempt to the second floor to continue to search for others but was forced to rapidly retreat due to deteriorating conditions.

Captain Scarnavack sustained injuries while making his way to safety and was removed from the structure by fire personnel. He was removed to medical personnel and an awaiting ambulance and was transported to a local hospital.

I believe Captain/EMT Michael Scarnavack performed his duties in the highest tradition of the Chicago Fire Department and he deserves this recognition for making the difference of life vs. death.

Police Officer Eric S. Schultz, Wauconda Police Department
Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening, I am Patrick Yost, Chief of Police for the Wauconda Police Department.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Schultz on Saturday December 23rd, 2006, when Eric was first hired as a police officer for Wauconda Police Department. Eric was very excited about joining the Department, recalling that it was a major achievement for him.

Eric went through the police academy and field training and a short time later in May of 2007 he was injured while on a foot pursuit through a few back yards. He thought he’d twisted his ankle and after a while he was convinced to get an MRI done to see why the pain was persisting. A short time later Eric asked if he and his father (Rick) could come visit me in the office. I was serving as the Deputy Chief at the time.

Eric told me that he had cancer in bone surrounding his right ankle and would need to go through a series of treatments. I remember how I felt hearing the news, the look on Rick’s face, the look on Eric’s face. I reflected at the time that I am a father…..how can Rick be holding it together. How can Eric be holding it together…..Eric in fact was rather up beat. I remember telling Eric and Rick that I was at their disposal, if there was anything I could do, please ask.

I asked Eric if there was anything he needed, knowing cancer treatments can be costly. I asked if a fund raiser would be ok in his honor. He declined saying it was not necessary, insurance was working fine. After a bit of treatment, he’d shared that he had a decision to make. Remove the tumor and walk with a limp, having to retire from police service, or remove the foot altogether and with a prosthetic, continue to do everything he was able to do now, including work. I promised we’d do whatever we could to get him back to full duty, if he’d just take care put his mind to it. I’d organized a St. Baldrick’s Cancer Foundation event in Eric’s honor, getting all the guys on the Department to shave their head and we raised $22,000. Eric was eight days post-surgery and showed up at the event, a real trooper.

Eric came back, took a physical test and showed he was indeed fit for duty.   For several years Eric suffered remissions in his lungs, hips and thyroid. Eric never asked for special treatment, just wanted to be treated like any other officer on the force. Eric passed on March 9th 2014, a short time after his 30th birthday. Just prior to his passing I was visiting Eric and Rick commented to me that he was so grateful for the comment I’d made when he and Eric first told me Eric was ill. He remembered that I told him “if there was anything I could do…”

I remember thinking how remarkable it was that he’d remembered and it makes me ponder even to this day if I’d even helped at all. I have realized however the courage displayed by Crystal, Eric’s wife, by Rick and Cindy, Eric’s parents and by Steven, Eric’s brother throughout Eric’s illness was quite impressive. The courage, tenacity, dedication and perseverance shown by Eric from the beginning are nothing short of extraordinary.

The support Eric got from his fellow Department members and his friends and family never wavered throughout his illness. That same show of support was echoed in the service held in his honor that was attended by thousands from the Chicagoland area. I know Eric has left a mark on my memory and his story serves as a constant encouragement.

God Bless you Crystal, Rick, Cindy and Steven and most especially Eric. Rest in peace brother, you’ve earned it.

Supervisory Special Agent Ted McNamara and Special Agents Richard Tipton, Mary Harris, and Lynda Thomas, FBI Chicago Field Office SWAT
I am honored to present this award to Supervisory Special Agent Ted McNamara and Special Agents Richard Tipton, Mary Harris, and Lynda Thomas.

This presentation is a little bit different from many of the others. These award winners did not make a split-second life-saving decision, or perform a heroic act.

The two factors that really make this case extraordinary are: 1. The extreme evil and disregard for human life shown by the bad guys, and 2. The way these agents acted quickly, decisively, and efficiently in a coordinated manner to ensure the permanent removal of two psychopaths from our society.

In July of 2012 while investigating the Grand Ave Crew of the Chicago Outfit, an FBI Cooperating Witness was introduced to Steve Mandell. Ted McNamara knew Mandell as an Outfit Hitman who had previously been sentenced to death in Missouri and Illinois, but who was later released on appeal due to a legal technicality, not because of innocence. These Agents also knew that Mandell was suspected of committing multiple other murders, including the murder of his own father, so when Mandell laid out his plan to the cooperating witness, this team took him seriously and responded appropriately.

Mandell discussed the take over a Chicago area Gentlemen’s Club with LCN ties. His plan was to kill the club owner and his wife, then call the co-owner and tell him he’d be is next if he did not go along with their plans.

During the initial phases of the case, Mandell also explained a separate plan to kidnap a wealthy Cook County businessman. He enlisted the assistance of a partner, but he would not disclose his partner’s identity.   The team later determined the partner to be Gary Engel. Engel, like Mandell was also known to the Agents as a previously convicted murderer who had been on death row as Mandell’s co-defendant. To further complicate the investigation, both Mandell and Engel were former police officers who possessed training, and expertise in law enforcement techniques and surveillance detection.

Mandell’s plan was to have the FBI cooperator set up a meeting with the intended victim. At that meeting, Mandell and Engel planned to pose as law enforcement and “arrest” the businessman. They intended to bring him to a property they had converted into a torture chamber they named “Club Med.” Once the victim was at Club Med, he would be tortured until he told them where he kept a very large sum of cash. After the cash was retrieved, the businessman would be killed, dismembered, and disposed.

This team quickly obtained Title III wiretap authority for surreptitious audio and video monitoring and recording at “Club Med.” Mandell and Engel were recorded setting up the torture chamber. They spent two days bringing items into Club Med. Electronic surveillance captured audio and video of them discussing in gruesome and graphic detail what they would do to the victim to make sure he talked. They were recorded as they set up Club Med to be used for multiple repeated tortures and dismemberments to more than one victim, and their tools included saws, knives, a pistol, a butcher block table, and an industrial sink to drain the victims blood for cleaner disposal.

On October 25, 2012 Mandell and Engel were arrested by an FBI SWAT team as they arrived for the meeting with the businessman. Mandell and Engel had handcuffs, a fake federal arrest warrant, a US Marshal’s ID, Cook County Sheriff’s badges, and a radio scanning for Chicago Police traffic. The team executed a search warrant at Club Med and recovered over 250 items including: a loaded .22 cal handgun, knives, saws, ski masks, flex cuffs, chemicals, notes about the intended victims, sleeping pills, garbage containers and sleeping bags. Two days later Engel hanged himself in his jail cell.

With Mandel and Engel off the street, the immediate threat to the public was mitigated, but given Mandell’s history, and the necessity for a flawless prosecution, there was still a lot of work to be done.

An eight count indictment was returned against Mandell for conspiracy,   Hobbs Act extortion, felon in possession of firearm, kidnapping, tampering with a witness, and use of interstate facilities in the commission of murder for hire.

Supervisory Special Agent McNamara managed the investigation. His leadership, facilitated the swift application of significant technical and manpower resources to be dedicated to the investigation. As the Case Agent, Special Agent Tipton was responsible for the overall conduct of all aspects of the investigation from start to finish. Special Agent Mary Harris led the extraordinary installation, management, and administration associated with the electronic surveillance efforts and evidence collection in the case. Special Agent Lynda Thomas led the effort to coordinate more than 40 trial witnesses, and several hundred exhibits used during a two-week federal trial that occurred in February 2014.

Following his conviction, in December 2014, Mandell was sentenced to life in prison plus 5 years. U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve said in imposing the sentence; “This was an extremely serious and disturbing offense. Your actions in this case, Mr. Mandell, were evil and showed a complete disregard for human life.”

Mandell is serving his sentence at the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado.

The decisive and exemplary investigation and prosecution by Special Agents Tipton, Harris, Thomas, and Supervisory Special Agent McNamara resulted in the prevention of the murder of a Cook County businessman and several other intended victims. The permanent removal of Mandell and Engel from our society makes us all much safer.