‘Behind The Badge’: Officers Reflect On Water Rescue At Spencer Park


A memorial now sits where two Belvidere Police Officers went above and beyond their oath responding to a call where a 16-year-old boy was under water in a pond at Spencer Park in Belvidere.

“It’s the oath that we swore, the job that we took,” said Belvidere Police Officer Matthew Shook. 

On July 11th, in a pond restricted to swimmers, police say two teen boys were cooling off along the shore when 16-year-old Braulio Hernandez went under in about 20 feet of water, his friend then frantically called police for help.

“The young man was waving his hands out on the dock. We could barely see him,” said Belvidere Police Sergeant Martin Gorsuch.

Sgt. Gorsuch and Ofc. Shook were among the first to arrive on the scene.
“The first officer immediately went in and searched around the dock and I dove in and checked a little bit deeper,” said Gorsuch. 

With no hesitation they took off their gear and jumped into the murky water hoping to find the boy until search and rescue divers arrived.

“I looked at it as to what the parents would do. They didn’t know yet what was going on and I kept thinking about the parents and the news they were going to have to recieve, and I didn’t want them to receive that news,” said Shook.

But despite their efforts, they could not find him in time.

“I have four little boys, so the first thing I did when I got home is grab my boys and hug them,” said Shook.

“We think of our kids, other kids in the community, our nephews, our nieces…many how the family is going to react to this. It’s a very tragic situation,” said Gorsuch.

That moment now a difficult memory for these officers.

“You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. It does stick with you, you need to talk to people about it,” said Gorsuch.

“Contrary to what people think, we’re not robots, this stuff does stick with us, it affects us day to day, we lose sleep,” said Shook.

Hoping to prevent future drownings, the department purchased new rescue bags aimed at helping officers in other water rescues.

“They have a floaty in it and they are 50 feet long, so we can actually throw these. You just grab the rope and throw the bag and you can throw it to rescue,” said Gorsuch.

Deputy Chief Matthew Wallace says he proud of his officers for going above and beyond, putting their own lives at risk to save others.

“When you show up on the scene and there is no rescue equipment here, just officers free diving in very cold water trying to save a life, it’s a very proud moment,” said Wallace.

Belvidere Police Officer Jonathon Kaplan who works as a school resource officer for the Belvidere School District was also among the first to arrive on the scene.

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