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Updated 03/27/12 – 10:07 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – A Chicago Police officer who was critically wounded when he was shot in the chest while chasing a suspect earlier this month is going home from the hospital.
As CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports, Officer Del Pearson left Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn on Tuesday, eight days after he was shot in the chest and lost nearly two-thirds of his blood.
Wearing a baseball cap and his police star pinned to a sling on his arm, Pearson was wheeled to a waiting car as dozens of police officers lined up to salute him. His wife, Christine, put her arm around him and rubbed his back as they were driven away from the hospital.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Pearson did not speak to reporters as he left the hospital, but an emotional Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the entire department was happy Pearson was able to go home so soon after a shooting that left him minutes away from bleeding to death.
“We were lucky. God was with us and this was just a great day. I can’t believe it. If you would have told me last Monday that we’d be standing here today making this announcement, I would have said you were out of your mind,” McCarthy said. “So, this is obviously a great day for all of us and Officer Pearson and his family are extremely happy. I can’t even begin to tell you.”
The surgeon who operated on Pearson said his prognosis is good.
“He was very lucky. It went very close to his spinal cord in his neck; and in fact, just chipped the side of his spine,” Dr. J. Kayle Lee said. “But he’s doing well and we think that he will be able to return to work after a few months.”
Lee said doctors plan at least one more operation to remove the bullet from Pearson’s neck, although it’s possible Pearson could elect to leave the bullet in his neck without affecting his recovery.
CBS 2′s Mike Parker reports dozens of relatives, friends and fellow officers cheered and applauded Pearson as he arrived at his Southwest Side home. His wife, Christine Pearson told CBS 2 about his first request for his homecoming: a Diet Pepsi. He got what he wanted.
The officer’s wife was thrilled that he was finally home.
“A week ago today, I didn’t think that he would be coming home. So this is a great day,” Christine Pearson said.
Pearson’s teenaged son Jacob called his dad’s recovery “a miracle.”
“It feels really, really good. I thought he would be just in the hospital for like a month or two, but over a week, he was home already,” Jacob said. “It’s amazing. It’s a miracle.”
Asked if her husband wants to return to his job as a South Chicago District tactical officer, Christine Pearson said he did and that “he would today if he could.”
“He loves what he does, and he’s excellent at it, so if he wants to go back, I’m behind him a hundred percent,” she said. “It’s been a little bit of a trying week, but he’s home, he’s alive, he’s walking, he’s talking. I’m ever grateful. God is good.”
McCarthy said Pearson’s wife sent him a text message Tuesday morning to make sure he knew Pearson would be coming home.
A purported gang member, 20-year-old Paris Sadler, has been charged with attempted murder in Pearson’s shooting.
Police have said Pearson owes his life to two of his colleagues, who drove him to Advocate Trinity Hospital themselves, rather than waiting for an ambulance.
“He looked very pale, and he was covered in wet blood. And I immediately said there is no way he can wait for an ambulance,” said Officer Christopher Kapa, who was driving the squad car. “So I said, ‘Officer Lund, help me get him in the back seat,’ we pulled him into the back seat of my unmarked squad, and took off for the hospital.”
Officer Kirsten Lund was in the back seat with Pearson, trying to keep him awake and conscious, and letting him know what was happening.
Pearson was later transferred to Christ, where he underwent a seven-hour surgery. Police said the bullet lodged near his spine, but he did not suffer any paralysis.
Pearson has been with the department for eight years. He and his partner were trying to stop and talk with four curfew violators — including Sadler — in the 8500 block of South Kingston Avenue around 10:40 p.m. Monday, when one of them fled into an alley.
According to court documents, Sadler was walking with three other men when police pulled up to talk to them. The other three men with Sadler stopped and put up their hands, but Sadler grabbed his waistband and fled and Pearson chased him toward the corner of 85th and Kingston.
Pearson warned his fellow officers that Sadler had a gun and ordered Sadler to drop the weapon, but Sadler fled into an alley, according to court documents.
Sadler then ran into a vacant lot and onto the porch of a friend’s house at 8430 S. Kingston Av. and tried to get inside. He shouted at his friend to let him in, and tried to reach around the security bars to open the door himself, but could not and his friend refused to let him in, court records state.
While Sadler was on the porch, Pearson caught up with him, and Sadler shot him twice, once in the shoulder and once in his protective vest. The bullet that struck him in the shoulder severed a main artery and lodged in his neck, near his spine.
Sadler then fled the scene as Pearson fired shots at him.
Prosecutors said after Sadler shot Pearson, he ran home and hid the .38-caliber handgun he had used in a hole in the wall behind a bathtub in his basement, then removed his clothes. But police quickly tracked him to his home and found both the gun and the shirt he was wearing when he allegedly shot Pearson.
Police also recovered a bullet from Pearson’s protective vest.
Police said Sadler has posted numerous Facebook photos and messages associating himself with the street gang known as the Every Body Killers. On his Facebook profile, he goes by the name “Pistol P.”
Sadler is being held in Cook County Jail after a judge denied him bail.