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High honors for Chicago Police heroes

(From left) Police Officers Joseph Biggane Jeffrey  PacochJuan Perez David Hickey were recipients department's premier award Police Medal Chicago

(From left) Police Officers Joseph Biggane, Jeffrey Pacocha, Juan Perez and David Hickey were recipients of the the department's premier award, the Police Medal at the Chicago Police Department's 51st Annual Police Recognition Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 21, 2012 6:23AM

Three victims’ throats had just been slashed, and Chicago Police saw suspects quickly leaving the scene on Feb. 26, 2011, in Edgewater.

The cops were outside, running surveillance and investigating a string of drug-related homicides.

They stopped the suspects’ car, and Chicago Police Officer David Hickey and one of the suspects were hit in a shootout. Then the suspects’ car crashed as they tried to flee.

But they wouldn’t surrender. One pointed a handgun at Officer Juan Perez, prompting Perez and Officer Jeffrey Pacocha to open fire, killing one of the suspects. The rest were taken into custody and turned out to be suspects in 12 homicides. So far, they’ve been charged with nine murders.

On Monday, Officers Hickey, Perez, Pacocha and Joseph Biggane received their department’s highest honor — the Police Medal — during the 51st Annual Police Recognition Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The luncheon highlighted several acts of bravery by officers who put themselves in harm’s way.

“Thank you for shouldering the awesome responsibility you carry every day in your charge to keep the residents of our great city safe,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.

McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel also paid tribute to the families of Chicago Police officers, including the relatives of the late officers Paul Nauden and Clifton Lewis, who received posthumous awards. “They will always be part of Chicago’s family,” Emanuel said.

Sixty-eight officers received awards while news anchor Bill Kurtis detailed how each earned the honors, often by putting their own lives in danger. They thwarted robberies, exchanged gunfire with drug dealers and saved children held at knifepoint.

“On a daily basis, they carry out a mission with courage and resolve that rarely gets talked about,” McCarthy said.

Hickey, Perez, Biggane and Pacocha also received the Superintendent’s Award of Valor. Hickey also was awarded the Police Blue Star, for officers who are seriously, critically or fatally wounded in the course of their duty.

A Blue Star also went posthumously to Lewis, who was working security off-duty on Dec. 29, 2011, at a grocery store when two armed men wearing black ski masks, dark clothing and gloves entered the store. Lewis identified himself as a Chicago Police officer and tried to stop the robbery, but he was shot and killed.

Maxine Hooks, Lewis’ mother, accepted the award.

Nauden received a posthumous Blue Shield Award for officers who are accidentally wounded or injured in the course of their duties. Nauden was involved in a police operation known as “Terror Town II” and was waiting to buy drugs undercover on May 20, 2011, when he became ill.

He flagged down a passing fire ambulance. He was in cardiac arrest and was rushed to a nearby hospital but didn’t survive.

Nauden’s wife, April, accepted the award along with daughters, Avril, 5, and Alana, 4.

“It’s very bittersweet,” April Nauden said after the ceremony. “Because it’s an honor to be here and to be acknowledged. “But it’s also sad.”

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