'This is a miracle': Bensenville cop shot in line of duty returns home

  • Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski, who was shot nine times in the line of duty while responding to a Nov. 6 domestic disturbance, kisses his son Jack, 1, as relatives and community members welcome him home to his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday.

      Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski, who was shot nine times in the line of duty while responding to a Nov. 6 domestic disturbance, kisses his son Jack, 1, as relatives and community members welcome him home to his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Colette and Ken Beynon of Roselle show their support as Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski returns home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday.

      Colette and Ken Beynon of Roselle show their support as Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski returns home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/18/2021 5:16 PM

Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski thought he might cry Saturday, as he came home for the first time since he was shot six weeks ago.

Instead, he could not stop smiling.

 

"I didn't expect any of this," he said, pointing to the crowd of well-wishers gathered outside. "I'm too happy to cry. I feel so good my body doesn't hurt right now."

People lined Granville Drive in Roselle near his wife's parents' house, which is a few doors away from his home. He will be staying with them in their one-story home for a bit, because his home has multiple levels and Kotlewski is still using a wheelchair and special crutches to get around.

Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski receives a homecoming from relatives and community members at his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. He is holding his son Jack, 1, while his wife Crystal holds their daughter, Jill, 4.
  Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski receives a homecoming from relatives and community members at his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. He is holding his son Jack, 1, while his wife Crystal holds their daughter, Jill, 4. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

The crowd cheered as he was lifted out of a Bensenville ambulance, then cheered some more when Kotlewski stood and walked in to the house.

"You got this Steven! You got this," a woman in the crowd yelled.

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"This is a miracle," said Karen Petrunic, a longtime friend of Kotlewski's mother-in-law. "We had to show there is a (silver) lining. There is a rainbow," Petrunic said of the festivities.

Blue and silver ribbons were tied on trees, U.S. flags lined the street, and the Chicago Police Department's bagpipe band played. Many yards displayed signs saying they supported police, with the hashtag #rosellebacks561 -- Kotlewski's badge number.

He was accompanied home from a rehabilitation center in Wheaton by representatives of at least 43 police departments, and a delegation from the Polish American Police Association.

Kotlewski came out a few minutes later to take questions from the crowd. Seated at a table, he snuggled his pug, Stabler -- named for the fictional detective on the "Law & Order" television series. He also joked about being distracted by the laughter of two of his children, who were playing behind him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He was accompanied home from a rehabilitation center in Wheaton by representatives of at least 43 police departments, and a delegation from the Polish American Police Association.

Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski, who was shot nine times in the line of duty, receives a homecoming from relatives and community members at his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday.
  Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski, who was shot nine times in the line of duty, receives a homecoming from relatives and community members at his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Kotlewski was shot nine times while answering a call just before 1 a.m. Nov. 6 at an apartment on York Road. A woman living there had called to ask police for help getting her 21-year-old son to leave her apartment. When a dispatcher asked if there were weapons in the apartment, the mother said "no," according to a recording of the 911 call.

Kotlewski had just entered the apartment and greeted the woman, who asked her son to come in to the living room.

Kotlewski greeted the man, and was shot immediately. The man has been charged with attempted murder, and is being held without bail at the DuPage County jail. A judge has ordered a psychiatric examination to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

The shots broke Kotlewski's thigh bones; damaged both knees, an arm and his back; and caused internal injuries. One of the shots severed a femoral artery. Fellow police officers put on tourniquets, scooped him in to a squad car and took him to an ambulance a few blocks away.

"We have a load-and-go situation," one paramedic can be heard saying on footage from Kotlewski's body-worn camera, meaning they wanted to get him to a trauma hospital as soon as possible. He was treated at Loyola University Medical Center, where he received 14 units of blood the first day. He underwent a half-dozen surgeries the first week he was hospitalized.

Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski shakes hands with retired Bensenville police officer Tom James as Kotlewski arrives at his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. Kotlewski was shot nine times in the line of duty on Nov. 6.
  Bensenville police officer Steven Kotlewski shakes hands with retired Bensenville police officer Tom James as Kotlewski arrives at his in-laws' Roselle home after being released from a rehabilitation center Saturday. Kotlewski was shot nine times in the line of duty on Nov. 6. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Kotlewski said Saturday he would like to return to being a patrol officer, but that it will depend on whether he can recover enough to meet the physical standards required.

"I love my job," he said. "I'd go back right now, if I could."

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