As Jose Perez took his oath as a police officer Friday morning in Oak Park Village Hall, he wore a Chicago Police memorial pin on his suit lapel. The pin was for his older brother, Benjamin, who died in the line of duty in 2002 while conducting drug surveillance on the West Side of Chicago. He said his brother was the sort of cop who sought out the tough assignments.
“He was what they call the ‘real police,'” said Jose Perez of his brother.
Shortly after 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2002, Benjamin Perez, a four-year veteran, and partner Ronald Zuniga received word of a narcotics transaction that was supposed to happen near Cermak Road and Spaulding on the South Side. The officers drove over and climbed a steep embankment up to the Metra train tracks in order to get a better vantage point.
Around 6:40 p.m., Zuniga tried to warn Perez of an approaching westbound train before jumping to safety. Perez reportedly tried to get over the trestle wall, which was six feet high and a mere three feet from the tracks, but he was likely pulled under the train by the suction of it, passing at 70 miles per hour.
The two brothers had often spoken as boys of becoming cops. Benjamin followed through, while Jose pursued other work. Now, at 39, Jose is following in Benjamin’s path. As his mother and father stepped up to help pin a badge on another son, it was an occasion for both pride and concern.
“There’s some risk involved,” he said. “It’s something you have to have a desire for. It’s not for everybody.”