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Police Recruit Seriously Injured Helping Motorist

Juan Vasquez (Photo Credit: Chicago Police)

Juan Vasquez (Photo Credit: Chicago Police)

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Updated: 10/22/10 8:05 p.m.

CHICAGO (WBBM) – A Good Samaritan who is a Chicago police recruit was hospitalized after he was struck by a vehicle as he pulled over to help someone involved in a crash on the Stevenson Expressway early Friday.

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Police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli confired the man injured is a police recruit, and was given his police star with 54 other recruits during a ceremony last Friday. The department later identified the probationary police officer as Daniel Vazquez, 28.

The Good Samaritan reportedly got out of his car along the inbound Stevenson Expressway near Damen before 1 a.m. Friday to help a motorist who had hit the median. State Police Master Sgt. Devin Stokes says that’s when a Pontiac Grand Am came along and hit Vazquez.

“The person who hit him was arrested and (ticketed for) having no valid driver’s license, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, failure to yield to a pedestrian and improper lane usage,” Stokes said.

The victim suffered head trauma and was taken to Stroger Hospital. His family – including his pregnant wife and three children and an uncle who is a Chicago police sergeant – were praying for his recovery as a steady stream of peers and top brass came to offer their support.

The rookie officer was due to begin full-time duty in a South Side neighborhood in a week. The man who supervised his training says the young cop understood that police work is public service.

 “It’s the standard. Most officers, if not all, are out there every day trying to help people, both on and off duty. It’s just unfortunate that this ended in a tragic accident,”  Academy Commanding Officer Mike Pigott said.

Vasquez and his fellow recruits were taught classes by veteran officers Thor Soderberg and Thomas Wortham – both of whom were shot to death in separate incidents last spring.

 “This class has been touched … by tragedy,” Pigott said. “I think it helps them realize that police work is a dangerous job and it’s something we all realize, even though we don’t want to accept it. It’s something we have to deal with.”

The person whose car had hit the median in the first place was not injured. The 26-year-old male driver of the Pontiac Grand Am told police he fell asleep. His name was not being released Friday morning, but he is from Chicago. He has been cited with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, driving without a valid license, improper lane usage, and failure to yield to a pedestrian, Stokes said.

The motorist involved in the first crash was not injured and that vehicle was towed, Stokes said.

The road was clear and dry with no rain at the time of the crash. Drugs and alcohol are also not suspected in the crash, Stokes said.

Illinois State Police are investigating.

CBS 2′s Mike Parker and The Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report.