Wauconda sergeant honored for valor
A Wauconda police sergeant on Tuesday received the department's highest award for his role in a 2014 confrontation that left a gunman dead.
Sgt. John Thibault, a 22-year-veteran of the department, was honored at Tuesday night's village board meeting with an Award of Valor.
The award recognizes bravery or heroism in potentially deadly situations. A medal and a ribbon for his uniform come with the honor.
Thibault is the latest officer to receive a decoration connected to the fatal showdown with armed auto-theft suspect John T. Nightingale.
Detective Thomas Robertson received an Award of Valor at a ceremony last week.
Additionally, two officers and a sergeant received departmental commendations. A different sergeant, two officers and two dispatchers received honorable mentions for their actions that day, too.
"They all played different roles," Chief David Wermes said before Tuesday's presentation. "Without all of them playing (their roles), it could have been a deadly outcome for a civilian or an officer."
The awards were among 54 given to 32 police department employees over the past week for actions occurring in the last two years.
Other cases included a different shooting, a kidnapping, an armed robbery and the delivery of a baby, Wermes said.
So many employees were recognized at once because such honors never have been awarded in Wauconda, said Wermes, who was named Wauconda's police chief in December.
The April 7, 2014, showdown with Nightingale was the most high-profile case of the bunch.
The confrontation occurred as Thibault, Robertson and other officers investigated a report of a stolen vehicle on the 100 block of Slocum Lake Road. Nightingale, 36, had been staying with friends at a house there, and he was accused of stealing an acquaintance's pickup truck.
When Thibault and Robertson arrived at the house, Nightingale -- a former Wauconda resident -- confronted them at the back door with a loaded .38-caliber revolver.
Thibault and Robertson repeatedly demanded Nightingale drop the gun. They shot him when he raised the weapon, Wermes said.
Two unarmed civilians were nearby and "could have easily been killed" if Thibault and Robertson didn't act, Wermes said.
Thibault and Robertson performed CPR on Nightingale until paramedics arrived. He died at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
An investigation by the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force determined Thibault and Robertson were justified in shooting Nightingale.
Wermes hopes recognizing the police personnel involved in the shooting brings them some psychological closure.
"It's never left their minds," Wermes said.
Mayor Frank Bart praised the officers for their actions.
"Our officers took decisive action in that split second, and their valor served them and the community well," Bart said. "The slightest hesitation could easily have had the opposite result."
Thibault received a second award Tuesday, too -- a group commendation for helping to investigate an attempted kidnapping in March 2015.
Thibault was honored separately because he was in training last week and couldn't attend the first ceremony.