One shift, two lives saved: How Bartlett cop won officer of the year

  • Bartlett police officer John Maertzig, center, with his wife, Stephanie, and Chief Patrick Ullrich. Maertzig was named the Kane County Officer of the Year Wednesday.

      Bartlett police officer John Maertzig, center, with his wife, Stephanie, and Chief Patrick Ullrich. Maertzig was named the Kane County Officer of the Year Wednesday. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
Posted4/20/2018 5:30 AM

2017 was a good year for Bartlett police officer John Maertzig.

It was even better for all the Bartlett residents whose lives he saved. Those feats, plus his role protecting colleagues in an armed standoff, earned Maertzig recognition Wednesday as the Officer of the Year by the Kane County Chiefs of Police.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pretty good for a guy who has been a cop for only three years.

Saving lives

"Guys all over this country are doing this every night and not being recognized for it," a modest Maertzig said after Wednesday's ceremony. "(These are) the things we do, the things we sign up for."

Two of Maertzig's lifesaving feats occurred during one shift in February 2017. He and another officer were first to respond to a report of an unconscious man in a home. He ran up the stairs to the man's bedroom and started CPR.

"All of a sudden, a big gasp of air came out," Maertzig said. But then there was a problem: The guy wore dentures, and the lower plate had fallen back in his throat, blocking the airway. Maertzig reached in and fished them out, allowing the man to resume breathing.

Two hours later, he was called to the scene of another unconscious man. The man's parents told him their son was a drug user. Maertzig administered the opioid antidote Narcan, resuscitating him from an apparent overdose.

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He saved someone else with Narcan later in the year. In November, Maertzig helped evacuate people from a house fire.

In early December, he was able to make contact with an armed, barricaded suicidal person and maintain a rapport until experts arrived.

And then on Christmas Eve, he performed CPR and helped administer an electrical shock via defibrillator to revive a man who collapsed while shoveling snow.

"That one I'm pretty proud of," he said. "That was good because, Christmas Eve, I didn't want to see anything (bad) happen."

John Maertzig
John Maertzig
Heroism

Maertzig's stellar year went beyond saving the lives of civilians. He also protected his colleagues' lives when he volunteered to be first through the door -- wielding a ballistic shield -- when officers entered a home for a domestic violence call where a husband was armed with a gun, in October.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I know this may sound cheesy, but I have always taken pride in looking after everybody I work with, looking after their backs, making sure I have their backs, making sure that they go home at night," Maertzig said. "I feel like being the frontman with the shield is the way to protect people."

That particular task came as news to his wife, Stephanie.

"Part of it was me really not thinking, either. Just taking the shield and saying, 'Let's go do some police work,'" Maertzig said.

The nominees

In all, 23 officers from 11 departments were nominated for the honor.

Aurora: Investigator David A. Brian and officer Steven Pacenti.

Bartlett: Maertzig and officer Gina Walsh.

Elburn: Det. Jeff Herra and officer Victoria Gwizdak.

Elgin: Det. John Fennell

Geneva: Cmdr. Julie Nash, Sgt. Eliezer Rivera and officers Mark Russo and Matthew Hann.

Illinois State Police District 15: Troopers Jason Vulgamott and Greg Melzer.

Kane County Sheriff: Det. Ryan Monaghan.

Montgomery: Sgt. Jack Niete.

North Aurora: officer Christopher Joswick.

St. Charles: officers Brooks Boyce, Chuck Crumlett, Jennifer Larsen, Rick Murawski, Tim Ocasek and Steve Woloszyk.

West Dundee: officer John Scheffler.

For the first time in the court's history, the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois allowed cameras to record its proceedings Wednesday, when justices heard oral arguments in the case of Melissa Calusinski. The Carpentersville woman is asking for a new trial on charges she killed a 16-month-old boy at a Lincolnshire day-care center.
For the first time in the court's history, the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois allowed cameras to record its proceedings Wednesday, when justices heard oral arguments in the case of Melissa Calusinski. The Carpentersville woman is asking for a new trial on charges she killed a 16-month-old boy at a Lincolnshire day-care center. - Pool/Chicago Tribune, Stacey Wescott, 2016
Lights, cameras, argue

History was made in an Elgin courtroom this week, and it had nothing to do with the much-publicized case before the justices of the Second District Appellate Court.

For the first time, justices permitted cameras to record their proceedings, which on Wednesday involved oral arguments in the case of Melissa Calusinski. She's the former day-care worker from Carpentersville appealing her murder conviction for the 2009 death of child in her care in Lincolnshire.

With its numerous twists and turns -- including a former Lake County coroner's claiming his predecessors botched the investigation -- the case has drawn national attention. And so producers from the CBS news magazine show "48 Hours" asked Chief Justice Donald Hudson if they could bring cameras when Calusinski's case appeared before the court Wednesday morning.

While cameras have been allowed in state courtrooms for years, it was the first time anyone asked to record Second District proceedings. The chief justice was all for it.

"It's good for the sake of transparency and accountability, and it allows an opportunity for the public to understand what's going on, particularly in the appellate court," which gets less attention than happenings in other courtrooms, Hudson told us this week. "It builds trust and confidence."

The Second District covers 13 counties in northern Illinois, including DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry.

It is just the second time any state appeals court has permitted cameras. The other? In 2011, when the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa allowed cameras for arguments in the Drew Peterson case.

Police across the suburbs will step up enforcement of laws against texting from behind the wheel, as part of the second annual Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week.
Police across the suburbs will step up enforcement of laws against texting from behind the wheel, as part of the second annual Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week. - Associated Press
Don't get distracted

It's never a good time to talk, text or watch Netflix on your handheld device while driving (yes, we've seen drivers doing all three). But if the safety of yourself, your passengers and the drivers around you isn't enough to convince you, suburban police are offering some added motivation next week.

Starting Monday, departments across the area will be stepping up enforcement as part of the second annual Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week.

"No distraction -- whether texting or talking on the phone -- is ever worth the loss of life on the roadway," said Rolling Meadows Deputy Police Chief William Arneson, whose department is taking part in the initiative. "These senseless deaths can easily be prevented if drivers simply choose to focus on the core task of driving when behind the wheel."

Statewide, police issued more than 18,000 tickets and warnings during last year's inaugural Distracted Driving Awareness Week. Besides enforcement, police departments also participate in education activities, such as speaking to driver's education classes and school assemblies.

• Got a tip? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com or call (847) 427-4483.

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