UPDATED 03/20/12 – 4:39 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago Police officer remained hospitalized Tuesday afternoon, after being shot and critically wounded while chasing a suspect, but police said his prognosis was good and he was interacting with family at the hospital.
Police said Officer Del Pearson was awake and alert Tuesday afternoon and was interacting with his family at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. He remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit, but police said his prognosis was good.
Although the bullet had lodged near his spine, sources said Pearson was able to move all his extremities Tuesday afternoon and was responding to his family’s voices at the hospital.
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“There’s a bullet lodged next to his spine; in his neck,” police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday. “I’m not sure if it’s in his spine, but that’s where it is. The bullet did not exit, and that makes it potentially more dangerous.”
The superintendent said Pearson’s wife, two children, mother and pastor are all with him at the hospital.
Dozens of friends and fellow officers also visited to show their support.
“The police department is a large extended family and the concern is one that, number one, the officer … recovers very quickly from a very traumatic situation,” Chicago Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden said.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Pearson underwent seven hours of surgery after he was shot in the chest in the South Chicago neighborhood.
While his bleeding has stopped, Camden said Pearson lost two-thirds of his blood as a result of his wounds.
Meanwhile, police have been questioning one person of interest – a 20-year-old man – in connection with the shooting in the South Chicago neighborhood Monday night. But no charges have been filed as of Tuesday afternoon, and police are reportedly looking for more suspects.
Pearson, a 47-year-old South Chicago District tactical officer, has been with the department for eight years. He and his partner were trying to stop and talk with four curfew violators in the 8500 block of South Kingston Avenue around 10:40 p.m. Monday, when one of them fled into an alley.
“One of the males turned and ran. The officer pursued him. A gun battle ensued in the alleyway,” McCarthy said.
As he chased the offender into a front yard, the suspect fired shots, striking the officer in the upper body. The officer was hit in his upper chest, just above his bulletproof vest. The gunman fled the scene, and the officer was left in critical condition.
“It apparently may have struck an artery inside, which obviously is a very serious incident,” McCarthy said.
According to McCarthy, the bullet lodged in Pearson’s neck, either near or in his spine.
“The bullet did not exit, which makes it potentially more dangerous bouncing around inside,” McCarthy said.
Immediately after Pearson was shot, uniformed and plainclothes police officers responded, canvassing the area. A police helicopter searched from above.
Investigators eventually found the gun that was used to shoot the officer, as well as 9 mm shell casings. They also executed two search warrants.
“As far as the investigation goes, it’s proceeding very, very, very well,” McCarthy said early Tuesday morning. “We’re speaking to some people’ we have a couple of witnesses to the incident.”
Meanwhile, throughout the morning as Perason was in surgery, dozens of officers stood by anxiously waiting for news.
“He’s a tactical officer in the 4th District, so obviously, he’s a good cop to begin with,” McCarthy said. “But you know, his commanding officer, his executive officer, his sergeant, his lieutenant – all the first things that they said to me was: ‘This guy’s a great cop. I don’t know how this would have happened to him.’ And nobody’s really talking a lot. There’s a very somber mood. Everybody’s very serious, and focused on praying for his recovery.”
Camden stood with the officers outside of the hospital.
“How would you feel if one of your family was shot?” Camden said. “The Police Department is a large extended family – and the realization then becomes it could become any one of those officers.”
The officer remained in the intensive care unit at Advocate Christ as of 11 a.m. His wife, two children, mother and pastor have also been there all along.
The shooting comes on the heels of a bloody weekend in Chicago. About 50 people were shot, and 10 of them were killed, including 6-year-old Aliyah Shell, who was hit by gunfire as she sat on her porch in the Little Village neighborhood.