Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn gives Hero Award to Evanston cop

Evanston Police officer Sean O'Brien and his girlfriend Mallory Navarra pose for photos outside the city council chamber at a March ceremony. O'Brien was given the Illinois Department of Public Health's Hero Award on Wednesday.

Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek

Evanston Police officer Sean O’Brien and his girlfriend Mallory Navarra pose for photos outside the city council chamber at a March ceremony. O’Brien was given the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Hero Award on Wednesday.

Patrick Svitek, Managing Editor

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday honored an Evanston police officer who dove into the Des Plaines River and rescued a 7-year-old boy while off duty.

Officer Sean O’Brien was given the state health department’s Hero Award, which is handed out every year to courageous emergency responders and ordinary citizens across Illinois.

O’Brien was driving home with his girlfriend March 5 when he spotted the young boy chasing a snowball into the river. O’Brien followed the 7-year-old and jumped into the icy water when he saw the boy’s Chicago Bears hat floating on the surface.

O’Brien was one of two recipients of the Hero Award this year. Shaun Bennett, a volunteer firefighter from Stockton, Ill., used just-completed training in CPR to help keep a co-worker conscious before an ambulance arrived in February.

“I salute all of Illinois’ first responders for the daily sacrifices they make in order to keep our families and neighbors safe,” Quinn said in a news release. “Sean O’Brien and Shaun Bennett remind us that even off duty, we can count on the courage and dedication of our EMS personnel to save our loved ones.”

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl recognized O’Brien before a City Council meeting in March, calling him an “absolute shining example of the best in the Evanston Police Department.”

— Patrick Svitek

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