Bensenville plans 'Day of Support' to give thanks, and aid, to wounded police officer

  • Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski continues to recover from injuries he suffered when he was shot nine times Nov. 5. Bensenville is planning a "Day of Support" on Nov, 27 in his honor, including a blood drive, candlelight ceremony and a fundraising concert.

    Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski continues to recover from injuries he suffered when he was shot nine times Nov. 5. Bensenville is planning a "Day of Support" on Nov, 27 in his honor, including a blood drive, candlelight ceremony and a fundraising concert. Courtesy of Ellie Murphy

  • Steven Kotlewski

    Steven Kotlewski

 
Updated 11/18/2021 5:22 PM

Bensenville is stepping up to show support for police officer Steven Kotlewski, who suffered severe injuries when shot nine times while responding to a domestic disturbance two weeks ago.

The town is planning a "Day of Support" on Nov. 27, with a blood drive, a gathering in the wounded officer's honor and a fundraising concert featuring "America's Got Talent" runner-up Austin Edwards.

 

"What better way of giving thanks to one of our heroes that was shot just for doing his job?" Village President Frank DeSimone said.

Kotlewski was shot at about 12:55 a.m. Nov. 5 while responding to a call for help to remove a man from his mother's apartment. He had just arrived at the York Road apartment and was standing in an open doorway when the man opened fire, police said.

Eight of the bullets tore through Kotlewski's legs, an arm and his back; the ninth lodged in his protective vest. He also fell down stairs. Both legs were broken, a femoral artery was severed, and his liver, colon, diaphragm and a kidney were damaged.

He required transfusions of 14 units of blood over the next 24 hours as doctors performed multiple surgeries to repair his wounds.

That's what prompted Bensenville leaders to include a blood drive in the "Day of Support," DeSimone said.

The drive will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 12 S. Center St. Donors can schedule an appointment at Vitalant.org, using the code ORD00221.

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From 4:30 to 5 p.m., at the same location, there will be a "Gathering for Recovery," with prayers, a candle-lighting ceremony and speeches by local leaders.

Then from 6:30 to 8 p.m., country singer-songwriter Austin Edwards will perform an acoustic concert at Fenton High School, 1000 W. Green St. Admission is a donation of any size, with proceeds going to the Kotlewski family.

'Still in good spirits'

Donations for the Kotlewski family -- the officer is married with three young children -- continue to roll into a GoFundMe.com account. It totaled $168,430 as of Thursday afternoon.

"Support is still pouring in like crazy," his sister-in-law, Ellie Murphy, told us this week. People also are donating meals and restaurant gift cards to the family through a Mealtrain.com account.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

DeSimone said people have been wrapping blue ribbons around trees and putting up yard signs showing support for the police department. The village has been distributing signs, for a donation.

"This community has been phenomenal with the response to this," he said.

Murphy has been keeping the community updated on Kotlewski's condition. He remains hospitalized in the ICU at Loyola University Medical Center and underwent a sixth surgery earlier this week, to repair nerve damage in his legs. He's in good spirits and making progress, Murphy wrote in her latest update.

"Our hearts are breaking for Steven's kids who are looking for their dad every day and wondering why he's not home yet," she said. "Keep the prayers coming so Steven can get home to his babies!!"

Drug charges in baby death

A Chicago woman whose 5-month-old son died in a June crash in Downers Grove now faces charges alleging she was driving under the influence of marijuana and amphetamines at the time.

Alexus Sigle
Alexus Sigle

A DuPage County grand jury last week indicted Alexus K. Sigle, 26, on charges of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and aggravated driving under a combination of alcohol and drugs.

She also was indicted on a charge of endangering the life of a child, alleging she failed to have her son in a car seat. She previously had been charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol.

The crash happened about 6:43 p.m. June 13 on I-355 near Ogden Avenue. Police say there were seven passengers in the Hyundai Sonata Sigle was driving, including six young children. None of the children were restrained, and her son, Jace Dillard, was on the lap of an adult front-seat passenger, authorities said. A 6-year-old child suffered a lacerated spleen and lacerated pancreas in the crash.

In a motion to reduce bail filed last week, defense lawyer Roger L. Brown blamed the crash on Sigle swerving to avoid a car that had cut her off.

"The defendant's own 5-month-old newborn son was tragically killed in this accident, and she has been understandably severely traumatized and devastated emotionally subsequent thereto," Brown wrote in his motion.

Judge Michael Reidy agreed to reduce bail to $100,000, meaning Sigle must post $10,000 to go free while awaiting trial.

No second-guessing

A 16-year prison term given to a Barrington war veteran who fatally shot his wife during a fight over a coffee pot might have been tough -- especially given expert testimony he was suffering through a mental disorder at the time -- but it also was fair, a state appeals court has ruled.

In a unanimous decision, the Second District Appellate Court upheld the sentence handed down two years ago to Larry Lotz for the 2016 killing of his wife of 40 years, Karen Lotz, at their home.

Larry Lotz
Larry Lotz

In his appeal, Lotz's attorneys argued that Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes issued an excessive sentence that was just four years off the maximum for a second-degree murder conviction. Shanes, the appeal argued, placed "too much emphasis" on deterrence while ignoring mitigating factors like the defendant's mental health, his lack of criminal background, and testimony from the Lotzes' sons that he and his wife had a loving relationship.

The appellate court said the record indicates Shanes carefully considered all those factors but decided on the lengthy term nonetheless.

"Defendant essentially asks this court to reweigh the evidence in aggravation and mitigation and substitute our judgment for that of the trial court," Justice Ann B. Jorgensen wrote, later noting that justices are "not sympathetic" to Lotz's condition. "We decline to reweigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the trial court."

Lotz was found guilty in August 2019, after a trial in which defense experts testified that the Vietnam War veteran was in a dissociative state -- brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder -- when he shot his wife to death during a January 2016 argument. Shanes rejected an insanity defense, instead calling the killing the result of "conscious, deliberate acts."

"This case started over what most married couples would call a stupid argument," Shanes said at the time. "The argument should have stopped, but tragically it did not."

Lotz, now 71 years old, is serving his sentence at the minimum-security Jacksonville Correctional Center. He's eligible for parole in April 2027, state records show.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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