Four Des Plaines police officers honored for life-saving efforts

Four Des Plaines police officers were publicly honored this week for saving the life of a man who set himself ablaze last year.

Sgt. Matt Jones and officers Adam Skotnicki, Dale Jeon and Reyler Leon received lifesaving awards for their heroic actions. The awards were bestowed during Monday's city council meeting to all the officers except Jeon, who was absent and will get his Wednesday.

About 6 a.m. Aug. 31, the officers went to the 1000 block of Seymour Avenue to help firefighters deal with a man who was trying to light himself on fire, Chief David Anderson said.

The man was on the driveway and had covered himself with a blanket doused in gasoline, Anderson said.

Despite efforts by Jeon and Leon to de-escalate the situation through conversation, the man poured a flammable liquid on himself and tried to light it. Jeon and Leon tried to get the lighter but the man turned and ignited his abdomen.

While Jeon and Leon continued struggling with the man to get the lighter, Skotnicki got a fire extinguisher from his squad car and put out the blaze, Anderson said.

Jones, Jeon and Leon immobilized the man, got the lighter from him and put him in handcuffs. That allowed paramedics to treat the man and transport him to a hospital "with minimal injuries," Anderson said.

"Through their quick thinking, teamwork and disregard for their own personal safety, during a tense and rapidly evolving situation, the officers were able to save his life," Anderson said.

Tragically, the man killed himself a few weeks later, a police spokesman said.

Jones is a 20-year veteran of the department. Skotnicki has been with the department 19 years. Jeon is a five-year veteran, while Leon has been with the Des Plaines police force less than three years.

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