How a St. Charles officer's quick actions saved a shooting victim's life
By Charles Keeshan and Susan Sarkauskas
St. Charles patrol officer Steve Mattas was about halfway through his midnight shift June 27 when a busy but ordinary night became one he wouldn't soon forget.
About 2 a.m., emergency 911 operators sounded an alarm: Multiple callers were reporting gunshots outside a nightclub along Lincoln Highway, on the far southwest corner of town.
Mattas rushed over from a little more than a mile away and was the first officer to arrive. By then, the gunfire had ended, but people at the scene pointed Mattas to one of two victims suffering from bullet wounds.
"He's dying," they screamed.
Mattas could see there was a lot of blood pooling on the ground and the victim was not coherent. His training kicked in -- "muscle memory," Mattas called it -- from his department's frequent instructional sessions on lifesaving procedures.
He donned protective gloves, then began methodically searching for wounds. What he found was a hole at the top of one leg, in the femoral artery. It was too close to the torso for Mattas to use a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
He ripped open a package of compressed "combat" gauze, which expands when inserted into a wound, and packed it into the hole.
But the profuse bleeding continued, even with a second combat gauze pack, so Mattas stuck his right thumb into the hole and pressed on the artery. That did the trick.
"The bleeding and the spraying just stopped," he said.
When paramedics arrived, they told Mattas "you're going with us." He kept his thumb in place as paramedics picked up the patient, loaded him into an ambulance, rode to a nearby hospital and took the victim into the emergency department. Mattas didn't let go until the man was in an operating room.
"It was quite an experience," Mattas told us.
Despite his lifesaving actions, Mattas doesn't think he was heroic. He said it was just part of his job.
"It comes down to the training. That's why the training is so important," he said.
But Chief James Keegan said Mattas deserves a pat on the back, because his quick actions "undoubtedly saved the life of one of the shooting victims located on-scene."
Mattas, 27, has been a police officer for five years. He worked for the Oregon, Illinois, department for three years, and the past two in St. Charles.
Officer deaths on the rise
The ongoing ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in traffic fatalities has 2021 on pace to become the deadliest year on record for law enforcement officers, according to a new report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
According to the group's midyear report of line-of-duty deaths, 155 officers died as a result of their work in the first six months of the year. That's up 10% from a year ago and, if the trend continues, will surpass the previous high of 295 deaths in 2020.
COVID is the leading cause, with 71 officers dying from the virus in the year's first half, the report states.
Traffic fatalities are up 58%, with the leading cause being officers struck by vehicles, accounting for 19 deaths. That's as many as in all of 2020.
Firearms were the third-leading cause, with 28.
"These numbers are a tragic reminder of the dangers our law enforcement officers are exposed to each and every day," said Marcia Ferranto, the memorial fund's CEO. "The last two years have been incredibly difficult and dangerous for law enforcement."
Among the fallen are four officers from Illinois: Lt. James Kouski of the Hometown Police Department, who died after he was struck by a vehicle in April; Chicago Heights officer Gary Hibbs, who died in March after suffering a heart attack while struggling with a domestic violence suspect; Illinois State Police trooper Todd A. Hanneken, killed March 25 in a crash near Champaign; and Champaign officer Chris Oberheim, who was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in May.
By state, Texas has the highest number of officer deaths with 25, followed Georgia and California (13 each) and Florida (10).
To view the full report, visit https://nleomf.org/facts-figures/fatalities-reports.
Passport scams are on the rise, thanks to a monthslong backlog of applications leaving travelers vulnerable to bogus offers of expediting the process, a consumer watchdog agency says.
- associated press
Beware when traveling abroad
With restrictions on travel abroad loosening and the backlog on passport applications meaning waits of up to five months to get one, scammers are taking advantage with bogus offers to speed up the process, according to the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB says scammers posing as passport expeditors are promising they can get applicants a passport sooner, if they're willing to pay an additional fee. Victims end up not only without their money but also, because passport applications contain lots of personal information, exposed to identity theft for years to come.
Some tips to avoid getting scammed:
• Never trust an unsolicited phone call or email pretending to be the state department or a passport agency asking for personal information or payment of fees.
• Requests for unusual forms of payments like gift cards, wire transfers or bitcoin are red flags;
• Beware high fees. The state department's Bureau of Consular Affairs typically charges $60 for an expedited passport request.
From prosecutor to judge
Bianca Camargo has been appointed to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Kane County Circuit Judge James Murphy, the Illinois Supreme Court announced Monday.
Camargo, who lives in Aurora, has been a Kane County prosecutor for the past 11 years. Before that, she worked for the Kane County state's attorney's office as a victim's advocate.
A 2010 graduate of the Northern Illinois University College of Law, Camargo will take the bench Aug. 9, and serve until Dec. 5, 2022.
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