Evanston police officer Sean O'Brien has been called a hero by Des Plaines authorities for entering the Des Plaines River on Tuesday afternoon to rescue a 7-year-old boy.
O'Brien says that while he's flattered by the comment, he's also reluctant to accept the label.
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"It's very nice that people are saying that, and of course the most important thing is that the boy is OK," O'Brien said Wednesday evening. "But I like to think that any good citizen, certainly any police officer or firefighter, would have done what I did."
O'Brien was off duty, running errands with his girlfriend in the area of Miner Street and River Road, when he saw the boy dart across the street.
"A driver in front of me slowed down and said something to him, and I figured that it was a family member. But then the car drove off," he said.
O'Brien followed the boy in his car down Joseph Schwab Road until he saw the boy playing by the Des Plaines River. O'Brien got out of his car and tried to reach the boy.
"He was playing with a snowball," O'Brien said. "I never expected he would jump into the river. But he threw the snowball in, then he jumped in after it."
O'Brien couldn't see the boy at first, but then he saw the boy's hat. He jumped into the waist-high water and screamed for the boy to reach out his hand. When the boy did, O'Brien pulled him out of the water to safety.
"I got him to my car as quickly as I could so I could warm him up," O'Brien said. "My dog was in the car with us that day, and that really helped calm the boy down."
Des Plaines police and paramedics arrived on the scene and transported the boy to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. On Tuesday, Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax praised O'Brien as a hero, saying that his actions probably saved the boy's life.
O'Brien, who's been with the Evanston Police Department for 4½ years, said he is grateful that he was able to rescue the boy, but he said he's not letting the "hero" talk go to his head.
"It feels good, it really does," he said. "But we have officers in our department who served in Iraq. That's what I consider a real hero."