This time it is going to be different; the loss of Commander Paul Bauer and our high school students and teachers in Florida demand it
March 8, 2018

Commander Paul Bauer.

Each day, the City of Chicago and our country reel from the tragic aftermath of gun violence. The onslaught is like a tidal wave that just keeps coming at us, battering the invisible shutters we put up to protect us from the threat outside our door. We are now living this reality on a daily basis. Neither age, nor race, nor socio-economic status matters anymore. Of course, the poorer you are, the greater the chance that you will be the next victim of gun violence. Yet, any one of us, at any time, can become the next statistic.

In Chicago alone, our newscasts are filled with the all-too-familiar crime scenes cordoned off by yellow police tape with the “do not cross” warnings while evidence technicians search for shell casings. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that the blood of our fellow Americans is flowing in our streets. 

What happened last month is a chilling reminder of how fragile life has become.  Only days after five law enforcement officers were killed in incidents across the country, within a 24-hour span, from mid-afternoon on February 13 through Valentine’s Day, our sense and sensibility was once again rocked to its core. The cold, hard fact that once the trigger of a gun is pulled, good people can and often die, hit home. Not once mind you, but twice. It happened right in our own back yard and it happened 1,152 miles away. The sting from each is still felt deeply.  We mourn our losses; we extend compassion to the victims’ families, friends, and comrades; and we pray for the deceased. And, through all of this, we either shake our heads in inconsolable sorrow or our fists in uncontrollable anger—or for some of us, we do both.

Every time a person dies from gun violence, we follow the same pattern of mourning by laying flowers and placing cards and hand-drawn art at the scene of the crime. Good-hearted people get ushered onto television and beg for the violence to stop. We plead for our elected officials to come up with fair-minded legislation that will protect all of us. Then, when the shock and the pain wear off (unless we are directly linked to those gunned down), we move on. It happened after the tragedies at Columbine High School and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. It happened after Sandy Hook Elementary School—yes, even then—after 20 innocent elementary school children and six of their teachers were murdered at the hands of a mentally ill person armed with an assault weapon.  And, we were moving on only months ago after the catastrophe in Las Vegas last October 1 when 58 concertgoers were killed and more than 500 were injured, and just one month later, on November 5, when 26 worshippers were executed at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Unlike in so many of the other horrible atrocities, the mass murderer in Las Vegas never saw the faces of his victims. He just randomly fired his rounds of terror from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Las Vegas strip.

But, not this time. We won’t be moving on so quickly from these February tragedies.  We have a feeling this time things will be different.

Before we go further, let us join together as a local community and extend our condolences to Erin and Grace Bauer, on the senseless and tragic loss of their husband and father, Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer. After his death, Commander Bauer was hailed as “the best of Chicago,” a hero who willingly ran towards the threat, a “really good cop,” and “the best police commander I worked with in 20 years.”

Commander Bauer was indeed all of these and so much more.  He was a devoted husband and a loving father. He was a spiritual man who went to Mass daily, believed in God and treated all people (and animals, more on that in a moment) with kindness and respect. It’s a real shame that we had to find out so much about his character and all the good that he did after Ambulance 42 took him from the scene of the shooting at the Thompson Center to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and then, in solemn procession, took his body to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in the Illinois Medical Center District.  The images that afternoon and evening of his tragic shooting, and the several days that followed, we won’t soon forget.

Commander Bauer was head of the 18th Police District on Chicago’s Near North Side—where he was praised for having great lines of communications with his internal and external constituents. His loss is felt deeply by the members of the CPD who served under him and the business owners and residents of the district. But, he was also one of our own.  He lived in Bridgeport for the past 15 years; it was the place where Erin was born and raised. She grew up just down the street from the famed Daley home where former mayors Richard J. and Richard M. lived. Grace is a student at South Loop Elementary School were her dad served on the Local School Council and finance committee and came to pick her up at the end of classes whenever he could. We can only imagine how Grace must have felt to have her dad come by to bring her home from school—she had to be so proud that her dad was making a difference in the lives of all Chicagoans. In one of the many “small ways” that Paul Bauer made a difference, he even found time to help organize the daughter-dad dance at South Loop School. Commander Bauer was a graduate of Saint Ignatius College Prep. He attended numerous memorial Masses for the Gold Star families—honoring those who, ironically and sadly, fell before him. 

The Bauer family attends Nativity of Our Lord Church where more than a thousand people including family, friends, fellow officers, other first responders, and dignitaries attended the Commander’s wake and funeral Mass. Among the throng of mourners was Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson as well as police officers from all over the United States. Some of the highest elected officials in Illinois attended, from Governor Bruce Rauner to Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle. Eleventh Ward Alderman Patrick Thompson and Cook County Commissioner John Daley also expressed their sympathy to the grieving Bauer family. People from different neighborhoods waited in freezing temperatures on the church steps and down the block for up to three hours to say good-bye to one of the City’s finest policemen.  They lined the streets as his hearse left Nativity of Our Lord Church to bid farewell and salute their Commander. They hung blue ribbons and his police portrait in front of their homes and Old Glory draped in black and blue stripes. For two days, news helicopters hovered overhead and their whir could be heard all over Bridgeport. 

Of all of the heart-rending images that came in the aftermath of the senseless death of Commander Bauer, one stands out for us at Gazette Chicago. Commander Bauer served as head of the CPD Mounted Police Patrol Unit. He also helped with the Horses of Honor project that decorates our streets and raised thousands of dollars for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation for the families of fallen and injured officers. While two mounted police officers stood watch outside of Northwestern Memorial, where Commander Bauer was taken after the shooting, the heads of their horses hung in sorrow. Animals are extremely intelligent and we couldn’t help but feel at that moment those horses knew that their beloved Commander had been taken from them. Even the horses, which Commander Bauer had cared for and touched, felt his extreme loss.

Commander Paul Bauer: A great police officer who served and protected his city.

While in charge of the mounted police patrol, Commander Bauer named his beloved horse Doffyn, in honor of slain Police Officer Daniel J. Doffyn.

Commander Bauer, on all accounts, would not have been comfortable with the attention and the accolades. But, the heartfelt tribute was important. It was important to show Erin and Grace how grateful the City was for sharing their remarkable husband and father with us. And, for us to say how thankful we remain that Commander Bauer cared so much for all of us that he laid down his life to protect us.

Chicagoans felt a deep sense of loss with the death of Commander Paul Bauer and that is why, this time, it’s going to be different.

It is also going to be different because on Valentine’s Day our hearts were shattered, most figuratively, but some literally, by the spray of bullets that took the lives of 14 young and bright high school students and three of their heroic teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The heart-wrenching video of the scene shortly after the shooting was made even more unbearable to watch as some of the grieving students clutched “Happy Valentine’s Day” balloons while comforted by parents and school staff.  The 17 who died, the 14 who were wounded, and those who survived physically unscathed, but emotionally scarred, were at the mercy of a former, 19-year-old fellow student who had been expelled from the school. Although he had a long list of troubling encounters with authorities, he was allowed to buy his AR-15 assault weapon of mass destruction legally in the state of Florida thanks to the “successful” lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association and their friends in the legislature.  As we lament the fact that Americans have become callous to all this death and devastation, let us not forget the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people and wounded 58 others. It was the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in United States history and the worst mass shooting ever… until Las Vegas…a year later. 

When will this madness end?

In the days after the killings of their fellow classmates, before many were even laid to rest, courageous Stoneman Douglas students held rallies and demanded that they and their fellow students across America be protected from gun violence and future acts driven by anger, hate, and mental illness. They were passionate and articulate. They made much more sense than the politicians in Washington who offered nothing but drivel as they continue to be bought by the NRA.  They even traveled to DC and met with President Donald Trump. They were joined by students who survived Columbine and parents whose children did not walk away at Sandy Hook.

What have these young people received for their courage to speak up and demand that they feel safe in their schools? Trolls who charge that they are paid actors. A President who calls for arming our teachers and by the way, pay them just a little bit more for their trouble of being trained to shoot and kill. This argument is asinine in a million ways, but here is one startling fact:  the best-trained law enforcement officers in the land hit their target only 20% of the time. What do we expect from our teachers, who would be forced to fire into a scene of mass hysteria? And, what chance does a teacher or even an armed security guard with a handgun have against a madman with an assault rifle like an AR-15 or an AK-47? The question doesn’t even call for an answer. 

Frankly, we don’t want to wade into political waters. We don’t want to mix politics with the heartfelt message of gratitude to Erin and Grace Bauer. But, if we are going to prevent Chicago’s next police officer from being slain and the next school shooting from taking place, we had better wake up and take action now.  If we don’t want to watch as the next Erin and Grace say a tearful goodbye to their beloved husband and dad, and we don’t want to watch high school students go on national television and demand, tearfully but stoically, what grown ups should have done years ago, we better act now.

Assault rifles were banned in this country from 1994 to 2004 and no one lost their Second Amendment rights. The Federal Government didn’t break down anyone’s doors and take their guns.

For the record, Gazette Chicago supports the Second Amendment right for those who choose to purchase a gun legally to do so to protect themselves and their families. We have no argument against using a gun for hunting and target practice. But, an assault rifle does no one any good. They are meant for the military to use in acts of war. We are allowing the NRA and the monied interests of the gun manufactures to turn those acts of war on our own children. In the 2016 campaign, President Trump received more than $30 million from the NRA. Of the 52 Senators with an A- rating or better from the NRA, 48 are Republican. This is a one-sided issue when it comes to politicians, folks.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are fed up and so are their parents. They are taking to social media and to the streets. Support their national march on March 24. They are not backing down and soon they will be voting.

This time it is going to be different. Already corporate America is turning its backs on the NRA. We say, hooray.

You might have noticed we have not mentioned the name of the despicable, habitual criminal who allegedly gunned down Commander Bauer. (We have to use the word “allegedly” here not to be sued). Hopefully, he is going to spend the rest of his life behind bars and for that we are grateful. His future prison sentence won’t bring back Commander Bauer, but at least we know one less evil person will be stalking our streets. We learned shortly after the death of the Commander that this individual would prey on the poor men and women living under Wacker Drive, shaking them down for the coins and dollar bills they begged for on the streets above. He had a criminal record a mile long. Need we say more about his character?

Nor have we mentioned the 19-year-old killer in Parkland, or the mass murderers in Las Vegas or Orlando. None of them deserve one more ounce of notoriety. You see, we shake our heads in inconsolable sorrow but we are also raising our fists in anger. We are angry that for so long nothing has been done to enact fair and rationale gun control laws that include a ban on assault rifles in every state and a curb on illegal gun trade. To this day, illegal guns make their way into Illinois from Indiana and other states. Commander Bauer died at the hands of a criminal with an illegal gun in his possession. Enough said. 

Photo by Christopher Valentino
Chicago and the nation mourned the tragic death of Chicago Police Department
Commander Paul Bauer in February. The Bridgeport community perhaps felt the sting a bit deeper as they said good-bye to one of their own with services at Nativity of Our Lord Church. For a reflection on Commander Bauer, the depth of his life and loss, and where we need to go from here.

So join with us. Write your United States Senators, your U.S. Congressmen, Governor Rauner, Mayor Emanuel, your State Senators and Representatives. The primary election is only two weeks away. We offer you in other pages of this publication whom we feel are the best candidates, but you must decide—you must do your homework—and then you must go out there and vote.

And, do more than that. Demand changes in our State laws that offer harsher prison sentences for habitual criminals like the person who killed Commander Bauer. As Gazette Chicago went to press, legislators were considering the Commander Paul Bauer Act that would ban the sale of body armor and high-capacity magazines to non-police personnel. Please get behind this legislation. Look, we will put it bluntly, okay? Gazette Chicago is viewed by many as a liberal voice in the community. Many like that, some don’t. That’s okay—it is what democracy is meant to stand for. But, the despicable person that pulled the trigger of that illegally owned 9MM Glock that killed Commander Bauer should have stayed behind bars for the remainder of his days long ago. There was never going to be any rehabilitation for that person.  Our judges need laws that allow them to set longer prison sentences. Our recent bail reform measures are failing us, allowing violent criminals out on I-bonds, and the like.

Join the effort to curb gun violence by demanding better educational systems for our youth and job training that comes with real jobs so we can get our young people out of gangs and the vicious cycle of violence that enthralls them from an early age. We are not going to solve this problem being divided. And, criminals come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. The devastation taking place in Chicago every day needs to be lamented just as much as every mass school shooting. What the Rev. Michael Pfleger is calling for on the South and West Sides of Chicago—an end to the violence and economic disparity—is no different than what all of us should be doing. So, let’s pull together here and start to turn this around and make Chicago streets safer for our children and for ourselves.

Here is just one example of what you can do. Go to and take the pledge to help curb gun violence in America. As of this writing, 2,308,387 Americans took the pledge. The pledge is simple. It says: “I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”

Who can argue with this? Why aren’t there 200 million Americans taking the pledge? It doesn’t matter. Let it start with you.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are tired of the empty words of “thoughts and prayers” and “now is not the time” echoing from politicians fearful of standing up to the NRA.

Help make change happen. Do it for the legacy of Commander Paul Bauer and the innocents who have perished in our schools and on our streets.

We have a feeling this time it is going to be different.