I-355 interchange near Itasca dedicated to honor state trooper
Thirty years ago, Illinois state trooper John Kugelman was killed near Itasca while attempting to assist in a high-speed chase.
On the anniversary of his death Thursday, state police honored the memory of the 27-year-old Kugelman, who had been with the department for just three years at the time of his death.
More than 200 family members, police officers, firefighters, legislators and citizens gathered at the Itasca Fire Department and later at the scene to designate the I-290/I-355 interchange in Kugelman's honor. Members of the trooper's family also were presented with framed Illinois State Police Memorial Park license plates bearing Kugelman's badge number.
Kugelman's father, Bill, shared a few stories of his "little boy," including John's hesitation to become a fifth-generation firefighter.
"He's scared of heights," Bill Kugelman quipped. "But really, you all don't know how proud I am to look out and see you all here to honor my son."
State police Director Leo Schmitz said the high-speed chase that claimed Kugelman's life began on Nov. 10, 1986, in Hoffman Estates and continued at speeds that exceeded 80 mph.
Kugelman, posthumously promoted to sergeant, monitored the chase on his radio and positioned himself ahead of it "as any good trooper would do," Schmitz said.
Kugelman stepped onto the shoulder of Route 53 near Irving Park Road and pulled his service revolver in an attempt to deter the fleeing car. But the driver, David S. Melind, 17, then of Elk Grove Village, never even slowed down.
Kugelman was struck and thrown about 20 feet in the air. He was pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
Melind, who was wanted on a warrant for violating his parole in a previous case, was arrested two miles down the road. He was found guilty in 1997 of murder and sentenced to 32 years in prison. He was released in 2002.