A police chief’s account of a mass shooting.

On February 15, 2019, Aurora, Illinois had a mass shooting that left six people dead and six injured (including five police officers).

The shooting happened less than one mile from Hesed House, the homeless shelter where I have worked for the last two decades.

Kristen Ziman was Chief of Police at the time.

Her wife and ex-husband (father of her children) were two of the officers who ran into the building to confront the shooter.

What follows is a lightly edited excerpt from Chief Ziman’s newly released book, Reimagining Blue:  Thoughts on Life, Leadership, and a New Way Forward in Policing.


I have not removed cuss words or depictions of violence

because mass shootings deserve full honesty.

Commander Cross was driving, and Commander Jack Fitchtel was in the back seat. 

We knew from 9-1-1 calls that the shooter was likely a guy who had just been terminated from a manufacturing plant. 

Jack was the SWAT team commander and was putting on his gear, I was in the front passenger seat hanging on to the “Oh shit” strap, and Keith was driving with lights and siren toward the plant.

I remember hearing Officer Russel say over the radio that Officer Gomez had been shot, but they hadn’t determined where the shooter was. 

Moments later, I heard Officer Cebulski come over the radio and say he had located four gunshot victims in an office—all presumed dead…

The shooter was on a killing spree, so when the officers started arriving on the scene, he turned his attention on them. 

Officer Cebulski and Officer Weaver were inside the building near the victims when the shooter came up the stairs and opened fire, striking Officer Cebulski. 

Weaver returned fire and grazed the shooter in the butt, knocking him down a flight of stairs. 

This shot wasn’t enough to incapacitate him, so the shooter took cover in a vestibule and waited in an ambush position for more officers to come… 

I heard Officer Rey Rivera yell, “DOOR 14—HE’S SHOOTING OUT OF DOOR 14.” 

The officers began to move toward the door, and that’s when Officer Rivera was shot. 

Then Officer Zegar. 

Then Officer Miller…

Then I received a text message from my wife that simply read, “I’m going in.” 

The shooter was still on the loose, and Officer Chris Tunney was with one of the Rescue Task Force teams that deployed for a grid search…

I read her text, stopped what I was doing for a moment to comprehend the magnitude of what could happen and responded, “Go find that motherfucker.”

Our September training will be a live interview with Chief Kristen Ziman.



Stay in touch

Receive weekly tips from Ryan about how to work with homeless, addicted and mentally ill patrons.