Thirty years ago, Chicago Police Department (CPD) Officer Irma Ruiz was shot and killed in the line of duty.
The Beverly resident’s death left an irreplaceable void in her family’s life, but they hope her legacy lives on at a park in Archer Heights that was renamed in her honor.
Walnut Park is now Irma C. Ruiz Park, 3801 W. 45th St., and it was dedicated to Ruiz on Oct. 19, with dozens of relatives, CPD members, public officials and supporters gathered at the park.
Ruiz’s grandchildren unveiled the sign honoring her. Her daughter, also named Irma, said the tribute brought mixed emotions.
“It’s wonderful. It’s bittersweet,” Irma said. “It’s an honor that she’s still remembered. It’s a tribute to her and … to fallen police officers. And to let people know that there is a beautiful, lovely spot in the city, and there’s hope.
“So many times we hear bad, but this is good.”
On Sep. 22, 1988, Ruiz, 40, was one of the first female officers in CPD history to be killed in the line of duty.
She and her partner, officer Greg Jaglowski, responded to Moses Montefiore School, on the 1300 block of South Ashland Avenue, after a report of an unruly student.
Tragically, while they were there, Clem Henderson, 40, entered the school and opened fire.
Ruiz was fatally struck in the chest, and Jaglowski was seriously injured. Jaglowski shot and killed Henderson.
The shooter killed four people, including a school custodian, Arthur Baker, who was from Canaryville and graduated from Mt. Carmel High School, and two employees at a nearby auto parts store; he also wounded a city garbage collector.
Officials said Ruiz’s and Jaglowski’s actions saved several students’ lives.
Ruiz and her husband, Peter, had four children. The younger Irma attended Maria High School; her son Peter attended Mt. Carmel; and John and Phillip were students at Christ the King Elementary School when she died.
At the park dedication, Jaglowski joined family members, some of whom still live in Beverly.
He beamed with pride while speaking of Ruiz’s bravery.
“I know Irma to this day would be proud that we took an assignment, and we finished an assignment,” Jaglowski said. “She paid the ultimate sacrifice, but I know today, and every day, that she’d be proud of what we did at the end of her tour.”
According to officials, Ruiz graduated from the Chicago Police Academy in October 1976 and was one of the first female officers assigned to the Grand Crossing District. She was assigned to the Harrison Area Youth Division, and she and Jaglowski often responded to calls at schools.
In her 12-year career, Ruiz earned a CPD commendation, three honorable mentions and four complimentary letters in her personnel file.
Irma C. Ruiz Elementary School, 2410 S. Leavitt St., is named in her honor.
14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke spearheaded the effort to have the park, which is in his ward, named in Ruiz’s honor, beginning with a proposal this summer.
He called the dedication a tribute to Ruiz and all law enforcement officers, “who each and every day make it possible for us to enjoy the benefits of this remarkable metropolis.”
In noting the close connection among CPD members, Burke recalled that officer Matt Rodriguez, who later became CPD superintendent, was among the first to respond to the call of officers needing assistance and tended to Jaglowski, who was bleeding from a wound to his femoral artery. Leo Schmitz, a now retired CPD officer from Mt. Greenwood who is director of the Illinois State Police, also responded to aid the officers.
Several children attended the dedication. Burke hoped the park’s new name would spark their curiosity.
“Through what [Chicago Park District CEO and Morgan Park resident] Mike Kelly and the park district does here, in the little corner of the southwest side of Chicago, I hope that youngsters like these, who gather here to laugh and play and see this sign that will be here for generations, will ask, ‘Who was Irma Ruiz?’” Burke said. “And maybe their moms and dads will say Irma Ruiz was a brave … courageous soul who exemplified the best in the profession of law enforcement.
“And her legacy will live on not only in her profession, but in her family.”