A1 A1
Momence police officers honored for heroism in courthouse shooting

MOMENCE — Shortly before 10 a.m. Aug. 26, Momence Police Chief Brian Brucato and Lt. Kenny Strunk left the Kankakee County Courthouse after getting some search warrants signed by a judge.

Unbeknownst to the officers, the three men walking behind them included two soon-to-be victims and one assailant in a shootout that would take place moments later.

The officers’ quick action in the coming minutes — which led to the surrender and arrest of one of the shooters — earned them awards for heroism and high praise from Momence Mayor Chuck Steele during the Momence City Council meeting Tuesday night.

“They were met with one of the greatest threats to the public — witnessing a shootout at the Kankakee County Courthouse,” Steele said. “They acted with great courage and bravery to do their jobs with what I consider heroism, putting themselves in great danger and doing their jobs selflessly to apprehend the suspect and protect the public.”

Brucato has been a police officer for 21 years and police chief in Momence since 2017, while Strunk has been an officer for 27 years and with Momence for four years. Both said they were surprised by the recognition Tuesday night.

“I’m very thankful, and grateful that no innocent bystanders were hurt, including ourselves,” Brucato said.

The officers recalled what can only be described in retrospect as “being in the right place at the right time.”

“We were pulling away from the rear of the courthouse when we heard a loud noise,” Brucato recalled. “We thought it was coming from my vehicle.”

As it turns out, the noise was the start of back-and-forth gunfire that ended in two deaths and one injury.

“Literally within 30 to 40 seconds, we were pulling off the back of the ramp, and the gunfire started,” Brucato said.

Brucato and Strunk got out of their vehicle as shots were being fired and worked their way toward the old jail in pursuit of suspect Miguel Andrade, who had retrieved an assault-style weapon from his vehicle, according to police.

“We got out of the vehicle and were trying to approach with cover, to be tactically sound and assess what was going on,” Strunk said.

The suspect dropped his weapon and surrendered to police after being approached by the Momence officers, Brucato said.

Kankakee Police Officer Justin Wynne assisted and took Andrade into custody, Brucato said.

Neither Momence officer could compare Aug. 26 to any other day in their 20-plus-year careers.

“Most shootings happen pretty fast,” Strunk said. “I mean, they are over within a couple of seconds. This one was not. This one was several minutes unfolding. It’s like it almost wasn’t real. It was unfolding and lasting several minutes.”

Steele presented the officers with awards Tuesday night and thanked them for their efforts on behalf of the city council.

“You both are great examples of bravery, courage and heroism, that is something the world desperately needs more of,” Steele said. “Thank you for making us all better people in your presence.”

Flu shot clinics available as flu season starts

In order to prepare for another year’s flu season complicated by COVID-19, here’s what you need to know.

What impact does the flu have?

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness where most symptoms are mild, like coughing and body aches, but generally worse than the common cold. It can trigger serious complications, worsen chronic conditions and even cause death.

“You can get both flu and COVID at the same time, so that could definitely cause a lot more severe illness as well,” said Kristen Dozier, BSN RN and Kankakee County Health Department’s clinic coordinator.

Flu season typically lasts from October to May and varies in severity, but the CDC estimates that between 3 and 11 percent of the U.S. population gets symptomatic flu each year. A recent flu season with high severity was 2017-2018, when it’s estimated that 61,000 people died, according to the CDC.

Dozier said those immunocompromised, older than 65, infants and pregnant women are most at risk to have serious complications from the flu.

How does the flu compare to COVID-19?

“COVID and the flu have a lot of the same symptoms,” Dozier said, though they are caused by different viruses.

Loss or change in taste or smell is more common with COVID, she said. COVID spreads more easily and has a different incubation period, or time between exposure/infection and showing symptoms.

“When somebody has the flu, they usually got it from somebody about a day to four days prior,” she said, noting that the incubation period for COVID can be from two to 14 days after infection, with the average being five days.

Most people with the flu are contagious for one day before showing symptoms and continue to be for three to four days, while most people with COVID tend to be contagious two or more days before and stay that way for at least 10 days, according to the CDC.

“They both spread through respiratory particles from people who are infected when they cough, sneeze, talk,” Dozier said.

Many scientists and doctors think that the reason flu cases were low last year is because of the extra protections taken against COVID that also protect against flu spread, including social distancing, masking and washing hands.

To view the similarities and differences in-depth, visit cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

How can I protect myself against the flu?

“The flu vaccine is recommended for anybody over the age of 6 months,” Dozier said. “It really is the best protection that we can get. And then it’s also important to, now with COVID, wear the masks, but in general to make sure you’re washing your hands frequently and staying home when you’re sick.”

Past studies have found that the flu vaccine is about 50 to 60 percent effective for healthy adults between 18 and 64, according to Mayo Clinic.

The standard flu vaccine is quadrivalent, Dozier said, meaning it protects against all four strains of flu that scientists expect will circulate. Specialized flu vaccines offer targeted protection for certain groups like those over the age of 65 or with pre-existing conditions.

The flu shot may cause mild side effects and very rare serious allergic reactions, according to the CDC.

Dozier said getting tested when you get sick is important because contagious periods and severity differ for the flu, COVID and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), of which increased cases have been reported in summer at hospitals across Illinois.

“There are tests that can test for multiple different viruses at the same time,” she said.

Where can I get a flu shot?

The health department and Catholic Charities Diocese of Joliet will be offering clinics in Kankakee County. Local pharmacies, doctor’s offices and the health department also offer the shot by appointment.

“Most insurances do cover the flu shot at 100 percent,” Dozier said. “We do participate in a few different programs for the state where if people do not have insurance, we can give them the immunizations for just an administration fee, and those would be $23 a shot for the standard vaccine dose.”

The flu and COVID-19 vaccines can safely be taken one after the other, Dozier said.

Children under 8 may need two doses, she added.

“If they never had a flu vaccine before, or they’ve never had a flu vaccine in two different seasons before, they do get two doses of the flu vaccine and those are 28 days apart,” Dozier said.

City of Kankakee acquires former Landing location

KANKAKEE — A key property for Kankakee’s continuing effort to redevelop its riverfront has been acquired for the bargain-basement price of $807.

The city purchased the former location of the Landing bar and restaurant at 575 S. Schuyler Ave., which is the northwest corner at the intersection of South Schuyler Avenue and East River Street. The building on the property was demolished a few years ago.

The property had previously been the longtime home of a Hardee’s restaurant.

Barbi Brewer-Watson, executive director of the Kankakee Economic & Community Development Agency, said the city quickly moved when the vacant lot was put up for sale.

The property is part of the area the city is redeveloping along the Kankakee River as part of The Currents of Kankakee project, which is the name of the proposed riverfront district.

She noted the city secured the property before it even reached the auction, as a municipality is allowed to do.

“We’ve been trying to capture this property for some time,” she told council members. “This is a major piece to the riverfront development.”

The city is also beginning its final design development push on what has been labeled the East Riverwalk.

The East Riverwalk is the approximately 1-acre site on the southeast corner of the Schuyler Avenue and River Street intersection. The city and its architectural firm, Hitchcock Design Group, have been formulating plans there as the first phase of the riverwalk.

The goal is to within the next 12 months settle on a final design and then complete engineering and permitting work as the clock is running to have this portion of the riverwalk started by 2023 and completed by 2025, per state Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grants.

If the project does not meet those timelines, the grants can be voided, so timing is becoming critical, noted Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis.

Regarding the East Riverwalk plans, the city has attained a $180,000 federal grant and $60,000 of city capital funds to complete this phase.

The next step after the final design work is gaining an approximate $3 million to $3.5 million, the projected cost of transforming the 1-acre site east of the South Schuyler Avenue bridge until it reaches the high-rise apartment building.

The East Riverwalk will contain features such as a kayak/canoe landing, public restrooms, pavilion, riverfront walkways and an overlook area to view the river.

City of Kankakee approves eastside gaming/liquor store site

KANKAKEE — Kankakee City Council members approved the permit needed for city residents to operate a gaming cafe and a liquor store in the 1600 block of East Maple Street.

But that doesn’t mean they liked it.

In addition, the city seems set to establish a moratorium on future gaming locations.

Prior to the vote for the conditional use permit for husband-and-wife business partners Sunny Singh and Tajinder Kaur, of Kankakee, several council members said Kankakee needs to establish a limit on video gaming locations.

The conditional use permit was approved by a 10-1 vote, with 3rd Ward Alderman David Crawford casting the dissenting vote.

The conditional use permit was approved last month by the Kankakee Planning Board and that board expressed similar concerns with the continued growth of gaming.

After the meeting, Mayor Chris Curtis said he expects the council’s License & Franchise Committee at its October meeting to recommend to the council a moratorium on future gaming cafes.

“I think we should take a pause,” Curtis said. “How many gaming cafes do we want? Are they a positive or a negative at this point on our city?”

Video gaming is big business in Kankakee.

Not including the six machines approved by the council on Tuesday, Kankakee has 39 locations where state-sanctioned video gaming is allowed. Those locations comprise a total of 211 gaming stations.

Kelly Johnson, a 6th Ward council member, the ward where these six new gaming stations will be located, said the East Maple area is thirsting for new business, but noted “I don’t like this kind of business coming here.”

Carl Brown, alderman for the neighboring 7th Ward agreed and noted he was not “overly excited” about this development.

Said 6th Ward Alderman Mike Cobbs: “I wouldn’t say I’m excited, but it’s nice to see some development.”

It was at this point in the meeting when Crawford, the lone dissenting vote, suggested a moratorium. “We need to look at this.”