As a Chicago police officer, Jack DeHeer was shot in the head, seriously injured in a car chase, and revived from a near-fatal heart attack he suffered during a foot pursuit. After surviving all that over the course of 20 years, he cannot believe so many of the city’s cops are more afraid of a needle than a bullet.
“Chicago police, go get fully vaccined, stop listening to all these frickin’ mopes,” says DeHeer, who is now retired and disabled. “Not getting fully vaccinated is the leading cause of death for police officers.”
The mopes in question include all those who spread falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Can any Chicago police use their own mind, or do they all follow terrible information?” DeHeer asked during an interview with The Daily Beast. “Quicker you get fully vaccinated, the better.”
The mope-in-chief is John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #7, the Chicago cop union. He has been exhorting his members to “hold line line” against the city’s vaccine mandate. He issued this call on Oct. 14, coinciding with the annual Police Week memorial in Washington, which honors fallen officers—among them the four Chicago cops who died this year of COVID-19.
Only 54 percent of Chicago cops have reported to the city that they are vaccinated. The union’s attorney has allowed that Catanzara is fully inoculated even as he continues to urge his members not to say whether they are.
Catanzara’s exhortation also came on the same week that former FOP Lodge #7 President Dean Angleo died of COVID. The union office was closed on Monday for Angelo’s funeral. The union and the family have not commented on Angleo’s vaccination status, but DeHeer counts him as a friend and believes he was among the otherwise smart former comrades who did not get the vaccine.
“One of the finest men I ever met in my life,” DeHeer told The Daily Beast. “He died this week because he didn’t get vaccinated.”
DeHeer recalled a time when they were both still on the job and in the street together.
“We went into battle and we won,” DeHeer said.
De Heer said he would still be a cop if he had been able to say on the force..
“Man, I loved being the police,” he said. “Saving people’s lives.”
After he was shot in the head during a gun battle in 1992, he underwent multiple brain surgeries and was consigned to a wheelchair for months. He could have just taken a disability but he managed to get back to full duty.
Then he was seriously injured in a car chase arising from a kidnapping. He continued the pursuit on foot and had a near-fatal heart attack. He also suffered a grand mal seizure and tremors and he was forced to retire in 2001 after two decades on the job.
Over the ensuing years, he missed only more the sense of mission and accomplished that he had felt as a cop. He was in a deepening gloom as he sat alone in his kitchen on a morning at the end of December of last year.
“My wife wasn’t home, I’m sitting there, depressed, I can’t do anything,” he recalled.
He then read a news report that Johnson & Johnson was seeking volunteers for a trial of a new COVID-19 vaccine.
“It was like a godsend,” he said. “It immediately hit me—‘Jack this is it. This is what you’ve been looking for. This will save hundreds of thousands of lives.’”
His disabilities preclude him from having a driver’s license, but his wife drove him to a clinic near his home in Indiana. He there learned that this was one lifesaving mission for which being disabled made him particularly qualified.
His various ailments and conditions made him an extra-welcome candidate for the trial, and all the more so because his lungs had been injured from running into fires and interrupting suicide-by-car-exhaust attempts.
“They were real happy that a guy like me would volunteer,” he recalled. “Instead of a normal person, they would have somebody who is already screwed up and they could see if the vaccine is going to work.”
He was accepted as subject No. 3032832. The test team explained that it was a double-blind study, which meant he would not be told until the end whether he got the vaccine or a placebo.
“I said, ‘No, you put the real stuff in my arm and we’ll see what happens. I appreciate the information, but I’m a winner,’” he remembered.
He got the shot on Dec. 3. He felt almost as if he were a cop once more. “It just gave me that feeling again,” he recalled. “It gave me purpose, of which I had none.”
And then it was just a matter of checking in via a laptop every two weeks and reporting he was suffering no ill effects.
“It was real easy,” he said.
On March 3, he returned to the clinic for the “unbinding.” He was given a paper that reported he had received “active vaccine.”
“They said, ‘Yeah, you got the real vaccine, Jack,’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Good.’ It made me happy.”
He imagined that his former fellow cops would commend him for having taken an active part in saving lives at some risk to himself, as he had so often done in the street.
“I thought, I swear [to] you, that when people heard they would say, ‘Oh, this figures,’ and then compliment the shit out of me and then thank me,” he told The Daily Beast. “Instead, I was a ‘lab rat.’ I was ‘a piece of shit.’”
Too many of his former comrades blindly opposed the vaccines. Some believed even the most ridiculous nonsense.
“These cops are saying, ‘They’re going to have microchips in it, they’re going to follow you everywhere,’’’ he said. “First of all, who’s going to follow me? And why would anybody want to?”
He responded to conspiracy theories with firsthand experience.
“I told them that I have volunteered for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and it was in my body and it was safe,” he recalled. “It was like, how dumb are you guys? What’s the big deal? I really can’t understand it.”
He suddenly felt as if this were not the same police department to which he had devoted his life.
“They’re all afraid due to bad information, lack of information,” he told The Daily Beast. “You’ll chase a man with a gun down an alley, but you won’t let this little needle in your shoulder?’”
The anti-vaxxers blathered about herd immunity but DeHeer saw something else at work among the cops.
“Herd mentality,” he said.
The city went to court at the end of last week and a judge ordered Catanzara to stop calling for his members to resist the mandate. But even as it closed the office for a former president who died from COVID, the union posted instructions for its members on the exact wording to use if they refuse a direct order not to report their vaccine status. The city seems willing to ease up for a few days, but not to back down.
“Who knows what’s going to happen here?” DeHeer wondered.
However it plays out, he is of the firm opinion that the union will be to blame if COVID continues to be the biggest cop killer in Chicago.
“Let’s just say a number of officers suffer COVID and they died,” DeHeer said. “It’s on their hands.”