The two Sleepy Hollow police officers placed on paid administrative leave after they shot and killed a man who brandished a knife and tried to cut them earlier this month, have been cleared for regular duty, Police Chief James Linane said Thursday.
The Illinois State Police continue to investigate the shooting, but Linane said the decision to return the officers to the street was his.
The officers, who have gone through counseling, reached out to Linane and said they wanted to work again. Linane said input from the sergeants as to whether the officers were ready to return, factored into his decision to release them for duty Tuesday.
Linane has said from the beginning the officers acted appropriately. They had been on leave since March 9.
"Based on what I know of the investigation and what I have done myself and having discussions with the state police and the state's attorney's office, I found no reason that would preclude me from returning them to duty," Linane said.
One of the officers returned to work Tuesday, while another is scheduled to come back by the end of the week.
Erdenebileg Sambuunyam, 40, of Buffalo Grove, was shot shortly before noon March 9 after he attempted to harm the officers outside a home on the 1800 block of Maple Lane near Hemlock Drive, police said.
He was pronounced dead that afternoon at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.
The veteran officers were placed on administrative leave for several reasons, Linane said. One was due to the ongoing state police investigation, but also because the officers had to turn over their weapons as part of the probe, which meant they couldn't work anyway.
The officers also had to go through counseling and critical incident debriefing, while the department needed time to regroup and analyze the situation. The officers' families attended counseling as well, Linane said. Additional counseling is available to the officers.
The officer-involved fatal shooting was a first for Sleepy Hollow, a town of about 3,500 people. The police department has 12 officers.
Linane said he warns officers at other small departments to keep their guard up when out on calls because if such a shooting can happen in Sleepy Hollow, it can happen in any small community.
"When you have a small community and a small department, sometimes you can be maybe too comfortable in how you handle things, not thinking something could go bad at any moment," Linane said.
"After what happened to us, Sleepy Hollow is really not so 'Sleepy Hollow' anymore."