Self Defense Tips

The last lesson.

On Wednesday afternoon July 7th, after officer Soderberg had gotten off of work in Englewood, a man approached him from behind as he was walking to his car.  The offender struggled with the officer, taking his service weapon and shooting the officer in the neck and chest.  This article discusses the story further:

Soderberg was a veteran police officer and instructor at the Chicago Police Academy.  Spending most of his time preparing young recruits to deal with everything from parking tickets to what to do when a domestic dispute gets out of hand.  He was working outside of that role the day he was shot.  The rest of this commentary will be based on are based on quotes that were found in these articles:

Never having been a police officer, I have not attended the training that police recruits go through, but several of my friends became police officers and have said that they train to deal with an assailants attempt to take their weapon.  So what happened in this case?  From the brief descriptions that are available in various news articles, it appears that there was at least one witness to what took place, but until that information becomes available we can only speculate.  We might get a few hints from the statements of Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weiss.

“This is the time of the day where officers breathe a sigh of relief. Their tour is over and now they get to be with their families and their friends,” Weis said. “However because of the incomprehensible acts of a 24-year-old convicted felon, Officer Soderberg did not make it to that volleyball game. Officer Soderberg was killed by this vicious criminal,” Weis said.

Maybe breathing a sigh of relief caused him to lower his guard.  After all, he was right across the street from a Chicago Police facility, heading to a police parking lot.  Who in their right mind is going to attack a police officer in his own backyard?  Who in their right mind indeed, but what about someone who isn’t in their right mind?

When asked if the parking lot where Soderberg was attacked had enough security, Weis said when a person is set on attacking someone to the extent Brewer was, no amount of security can stop them.  He is also quoted as saying “There’s really no level of security you can put up that will prevent a person like that from attacking someone,” he said. “And unfortunately we lost an officer in this case.”

It seems that the only chance officer Soderberg may have had was to immediately get to his gun and shoot this guy, but unfortunately that isn’t what happened.  Maybe he wasn’t the kind of person who could have just pulled his weapon and fired?  Let’s read what those who knew him had to say about him.

“This recruiting class, it’s challenging for them. They were with him all the time. He’s the big brother. He’s the one who keeps them in shape and the one who keeps them in line. He’s the one who pulls them aside when they have a problem and he had that personality,” said Sgt. Sheamus Mannion, Education Training Division.

“Everything I do in this job and from here on out, I will always remember Thor,” Chatham said. “He taught us to be humble even though we are in a great position of power.”

Rachuy encouraged the officers to follow Soderberg’s advice of approaching every situation with “fresh eyes” — a term he used to describe being attentive, open-minded and fair.

He sounds like a giving person, someone who puts others before himself, who tried to see both sides of a situation and reacted thoughtfully.  Could that have been a reason for the terrible result of his life and death struggle?  Did his caring personality delay his reaction to dealing with his assailant more quickly and with deadly force?  Was the unexpectedness of the attack “in ones own backyard” enough to immobilize him for the few seconds it took the assailant to get his hands on the officer’s gun? Maybe it is more along the lines of what Superintendent Weis said.  Maybe when you have someone intent on hurting you in the manner the assailant did, that there just might not be a lot you can do to prevent it, no matter how well trained you happen to be.

So what was the final lesson we learned from Officer Soderberg?  You might find the answer in the words and actions of his former students.

His death translated into a heightened sense of officer safety almost immediately. For the past few days, when it was time to go home, the recruits would wait to pull out of the parking lot together so no one was left behind,

“I’m being more cognizant about where I’m at, where people are around me, where my weapon is,” she said.

“I’m a lot more alert than I was before his death,” she said. “I’m not scared at all. But when it’s somebody that’s near and dear to us, it’s more personal.”

“We may not see it now, but each one of us has changed for the better,” she said. “For, you see, his death was not in vain. The lessons we learned and continue to learn from his life will make us better police officers and better human beings.”

We can only hope so!

Ed Kress
For over 35 years Ed Kress has been an instructor and student at the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, named "Best Overall Martial Arts School” worldwide by Black Belt Magazine. Master Fred Degerberg awarded Ed his 7th degree Black Belt in 2015. Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ed learned early in life to pay attention to his surroundings in order to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. Along with local law enforcement officers and directors of campus security, Ed has developed a program which focuses on teaching personal safety on the streets, and as it relates to the high school and college experience. Ed has trained thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students to improve their personal and situational awareness and, when necessary, how to physically defend themselves using their brains as well as their bodies. Ed began his martial arts career when he started wrestling in 8th grade, taking 1st place in the Chicago Park District City Championships. He later wrestled varsity at Mendel Catholic High School where he was a Chicago Catholic League Conference Champion. During his college career at North Park University he was a Conference Champion and 2-time NCAA Div 3 national qualifier. He was on his way to qualifying for the 3rd time when a neck injury ended his college career. His record that year was 17 - 0. He continues to wrestle as Head Freshman Wrestling Coach at Loyola Academy. A position he has held since 2004.

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