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Chicago Ridge Deputy Fire Chief Charged With Home Invasion, Attempted Murder

Gary M. Swiercz was charged with attempted murder, home invasion, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated attempted criminal sexual assault, and residential burglary. (Credit: Tinley Park Police)

Gary M. Swiercz was charged with attempted murder, home invasion, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated attempted criminal sexual assault, and residential burglary. (Credit: Tinley Park Police)

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UPDATED: 1/7/2013 5:25 a.m.

TINLEY PARK (CBS) — A deputy fire chief for south suburban Chicago Ridge has been placed on indefinite “administrative leave” after being charged with home invasion and attempted murder for allegedly breaking into a neighbor’s condominium unit in Tinley Park early Saturday and beating her while armed with a knife.

Early in the morning on Saturday, a man armed with a knife entered the condominium unit in the 8100 block of 168th Place forced the woman who lived there to the floor and battered her, a release from Tinley Park police said.

A struggle ensued, and the man fled from the scene. Police responded to the scene about 2:35 a.m. The woman was treated at the scene for minor injuries, according to the release.

Police who arrived at the scene found a man matching the description of the offender in the condominium’s parking lot. That man, 49-year-old Gary M. Swiercz, also of the 8100 block of West 168th Place, was charged with attempted murder, home invasion, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated attempted criminal sexual assault, and residential burglary, the release said. Swiercz is a deputy chief for the Chicago Ridge Fire Department and is a former fire chief for south suburban Worth.

The Chicago Ridge Fire Department announced on Sunday afternoon that Swiercz has been placed on “administrative leave” pending the results of the criminal investigation. A statement from the fire department said that at the time of the incident Swiercz was off-duty “and not performing any duty in his official capacity with the Chicago Ridge Fire Department.”

The Chicago Ridge Fire Department said that since this matter is the subject of a pending investigation, “any further comment or statement would be inappropriate other than to confirm that he is on indefinite ‘administrative leave’ and will not be performing any official duties for the Chicago Ridge Fire Department.”

Members of Swiercz’s family, who attended Sunday’s court hearing, declined to speak to reporters. His attorney, Colleen McSweeney Moore, suggested prescription medication might be to blame, but she later said that’s merely speculation and couldn’t give details.

She said Swiercz is a recipient of the Army’s Good Conduct Medal, helps with Toys for Tots and served as the fire chief in south suburban Worth from 2005 to 2008.

“This is an aberration and totally out of character for this man,” she told the judge.

Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Calandriello said Swiercz lives in the same condominium complex as his victim and entered her home early Saturday. He said Swiercz put his hands over her mouth and put a 3?-inch blade to her throat.

He held his victim’s hands together, Calandriello said, as he led her from her living room to the kitchen where he forced her up against a kitchen cabinet while she was screaming.

The prosecutor said Swiercz threw his victim to the ground, and court records allege he slammed her head on the tiled kitchen floor three times.

A struggle ensued, and the attacker fled, police said.

Calandriello said the woman was left with a swollen lip and a knot in the back of her head. Prosecutors allege Swiercz fled out the rear door of the woman’s condo — the same door used to get in.

Witnesses later saw Swiercz throwing items away in a Dumpster, Calandriello said.

Swiercz was ordered held on $150,000 bond at a hearing Sunday at the Cook County courthouse at 26th and California.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)