EDISON PARK — Firewater Saloon was at capacity Tuesday night as people gathered to show their support for the family of slain officer Samuel “Sammy” Jimenez.
Jimenez, 28, was a Chicago Police officer, a husband, a father of three children and legal guardian to another child. He was fatally shot on Monday alongside Dr. Tamara O’Neal, 38, and pharmaceutical assistant Dayna Less, 24, after a gunman opened fire at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.
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“Sammy was one of the best friends you can have. I didn’t get a chance to work with him on the street, but I wish he could have transferred to my district,” officer Daniel Lazzara said.
He sat next to Jimenez during homeroom when they were at the police academy, and said they’d chat every day.
“At the academy we’d talk about how cool it would be to work together,” Lazzara said. “But everyone who did work with him I met yesterday at the hospital says he was somebody who made you feel safe, who you could rely on to get good police work done.”
Lazzara was one of more than 200 people who packed into Firewater Saloon at 6689 N. Oliphant Ave. on Tuesday night to remember Jimenez and to raise money for his family. After the memorial, officers and friends hung blue ribbons in the area in his honor.
Jimenez’s parents were from Puerto Rico and he grew up in Logan Square, the youngest of nine siblings, the Sun-Times reported. He attended Salmon P. Chase Elementary School and met his wife, Crystal Garcia, his freshman year of high school at Foreman College and Career Academy. The two were about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
“He always put his family first. He had three kids of his own but was really taking care of four kids,” Lazzara said. “He adopted one child from someone else in his family because they weren’t able take care the kid. When he graduated from the academy he said he was happy because he could move his family out of their apartment and give them a house. I mean, everything Sam did was for his family.”
A letter sent out on Tuesday to parents of the Franklin Park School District said Jimenez was both a father and uncle to students in the district and that his death was a tragic loss.
“…As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, let us keep the Jimenez family in our thoughts and remember to extend our gratitude to all those, like Officer Jimenez, who dutifully serve to keep us safe from harm,” wrote David H. Katzin, the district’s superintendent.
Before the blue ribbons were passed out, Melissa McIntyre, executive director of the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce and one of the memorial’s organizers, asked the large crowd the place them on the route of Thursday’s Edison Park turkey trot, which will include the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation as one of its benefactors this year.
McIntyre said Ignite The Spirit, a charity benefiting first responders, had already donated $500 to the fund for Jimenez’s family.
The Edison Park memorial was put together shortly after news of Jimenez’s death was confirmed by police Monday night.
“We’re a huge Chicago police and firefighter community,” McIntyre said. “And when one of our first responders are killed in the line of duty, we come together, because that could be any one of our neighbors or family members.”
Relatively new to the force and assigned to the Wentworth (2nd) District, Jimenez had joined in February 2017 and completed his probationary period shortly before gunman Juan Lopez went on a rampage at Mercy Hospital Monday afternoon.
“When he got the offer to join the police department I was so happy for him. I called him to congratulate him because his hard work was paying off,” said Daniel Torres, manager of Moretti’s Edison Park.
Torres first met Jimenez in 2008 when he was bussing tables at the restaurant. Jimenez worked at Moretti’s for four years, and in the process, became fishing buddies with Torres.
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Jimenez had his heart set on becoming a police officer, and while he waited to hear if he’d be accepted into the academy, he worked odd jobs to support his family.
“He worked at Moretti’s and did security at the post office and a couple other places. Anything to provide for his family,” Lazzara said. “So when he got called to be a Chicago Police officer, he and his family were ecstatic.”
Jimenez’s friends said they were most impressed with his capacity to be “father figure” or “older brother” to the people around him.
“His older brother worked here too and I remember Sammy always looking out for him,” Torres said. “It’s funny. Sammy was the younger brother, but he was the ‘older brother’ too.”
That trait also impressed Lazzara when they were together at the police academy.
RELATED: Dayna Less, Killed In Mercy Hospital Shooting, Got Into Medicine To Help People After Her Own Health Issues, Devastated Family Says
“He was a very fit guy, and he would take guys who weren’t as strong and bring them to the academy’s gym every morning because he wanted to make everyone better,” Lazzara said. “He would always pair up with people to help out with training. He made everyone better and anyone who worked with him just came out better after working with Sam.”
On Monday, Jimenez and his partner were working elsewhere when they got the call about the shooting at Mercy Hospital, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said. They responded to the shooting and heard gunfire when they arrived at the hospital.
“When they pulled up, they heard the gunshots and they did what heroic officers always do: They ran towards that gunfire,” Johnson said. “So they weren’t assigned to the call. They just went. Because that’s what we do.”
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), a former cop and firefighter, said he was proud of how quickly the community came together to support the Jimenez family. But in a year that also saw Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer killed, he wishes neighbors getting together under different circumstances.
It’s sad to see it happen again, Napolitano said.
“It hits home and it hurts,” he said. “Things like this keep happening, more and more, and the biggest part of healing is communities coming together. It makes me happy to know that with such insanity out there, there’s hope and humanity — and a neighborhood like this shows that.”
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