BOURBONNAIS — Rod Gustafson simply could not take it any longer.
He watched the news and read the stories. Day after day. He saw streets in major cities across the nation filled with protesters opposing police. He read stories of police cars being set on fire. He saw officers attacked.
He wasn’t going to simply sit back and do nothing.
He decided to take to the streets himself — in support of police.
Armed with nothing more than a sign which reads “Support Our Police” and a 7-foot pole, the 76-year-old Gustafson, a retired nurse, stands at the intersection of Armour Road and Ashley Avenue each and every day showing his support for law enforcement.
Wearing a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” cap and sporting a thick, grey beard, the man who served in the U.S. Navy from 1962-64 said his message is mostly well received.
“Every once in a while a get the finger or some profanity,” he confessed.
Standing at the intersection anchored by the Kroger grocery store and along the five-lane, heavily traveled road, which connects Illinois Route 50 and U.S. 45/52, Gustafson simply holds the sign and waves to the many who honk their vehicle horns in support of his message.
“Someone has to say something,” he explained of his effort which began sometime in late May or early June.
Asked how long he plans to stand near the intersection and display his sign, Gustafson said that is question he can’t answer with a specific time.
“When I see the last of the riots. When I see people have stopped throwing bricks at police. When people stop shooting police.
“I’m just an ordinary American. I’m just an average guy. I’m someone who grew up, got a job and had some kids,” he said. “Some people are taking notice and have the same thoughts as I have.”
Bourbonnais Deputy Police Chief Dave Anderson said it’s certainly nice to see someone share their opinion in a positive manner regarding police.
“We live in a great community and I mean all of Kankakee County. I don’t believe everyone hates us,” Anderson said. “There are changes that do need to be made, but we don’t have the situations that we are seeing in some of these major cities.
“This man has the right to say anything just like everyone else. ... I’m sure there is a small minority of population within Kankakee County that hate the police. [Police] are all human beings. We all have good days and bad days. We will still come when someone calls for help no matter who they are.”
Gustafson typically begins his daily shift across the street from the Kroger grocery store at about 3:30 p.m. He typically stands — or sits if the weather is really hot — for an hour or two.
He holds the sign so it faces oncoming vehicles. He twists his position as the traffic light turns from red to green.
Born and raised in Will County’s Manhattan, Gustafson moved to Bourbonnais in 1972. He would have never pictured himself in the position he finds himself each and every afternoon.
“When I first saw the protest to defund the police, I couldn’t believe it,.” he said. “I’ve never been that political. I’ve never been that outspoken. ... The whole concept of defunding the police. Where did that concept come from? Who you gonna call when you need someone? Ghostbusters? People need commonsense.”
Taking his message to the street is not something he ever envisioned.
“It took a while to get comfortable standing on a street corner. It makes me feel good when people honk their horns.”
For every honked horn, he shows his appreciation with a simple wave from his free hand.
On this particular Tuesday afternoon, a man in a red pickup truck pulls into a nearby parking lot. He approaches Gustafson. He had a T-shirt in his hand. The T-shirt reads “Blue Lives Matter,” in reference to law enforcement. The gift giver, who would not reveal his name, said it was simply his way of saying thanks to the man who was urging people to be supportive of law enforcement.
“I’m all for all sides of the story getting out,” the person said regarding the support of public safety professionals. “I’m glad he’s out here.”
Gustafson is again asked just how long he will be manning this post.
He pulls at his beard.
“I think the protests will last until the election. I really do. ... I don’t know. I’m an old man,” he cracked. “As long as I’m comfortable, I’ll stay here.”
Until then he will continue to be a presence at this corner.
“I’ll be here seven days a week, no overtime.”
He is asked if Bourbonnais Police Chief Jim Phelps has stopped by.
“I don’t even know who the Bourbonnais police chief is.”
BOURBONNAIS — On July 1, two old friends came up with an idea to raise money for funding police training for local agencies.
With some help from local law enforcement officers, Larry Shedwill and Tommy Wilson’s idea turned around in a month and raised $17,000. The money will be donated to the Eastern Illinois Chief Police Association for distribution to local agencies.
“I was at a gas station in Manteno and ran into Tommy,” Shedwill said. “We hadn’t seen each other in five or six years. We started talking about how tired we were of this anti-police and defunding police.”
Shedwill is president of the Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club. Wilson is a member of the Time Bandits band, which provided entertainment at the fundraiser held Aug 1 at the club.
The club, band and Bordertown Guns sponsored the event which raised money through silent auctions, a raffle and food. The grand prize was a DPMS A-15 .233/5.56 rifle.
Shedwill addressed the incident at the heart of much of the recent unrest in regard to police — the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“I am not condoning what happened in Minnesota,” he said. “That was wrong.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died during an arrest on a charge of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. After Floyd’s death, protests against police violence toward black people quickly spread across the United States and internationally.
Chauvin and three other officers have been charged in Floyd’s death.
“People don’t know what all goes into law enforcement,” Shedwill said. “You’re training every single time you go out on patrol. You never know what to expect.”
He said the fundraiser was a way to back police, firefighters and others.
“We want to support the people who put their lives on the line every day,” Shedwill said. “It is not an easy job. In small communities, people need to stand by their convictions. Don’t be afraid to make your opinion known, regardless of what side you are on.”
One of the local law enforcement officials who helped Shedwill and Wilson was Lt. Robin Passwater with the Kankakee Police Department.
Passwater said Shedwill was pretty much the driving force behind the effort.
“For the club to raise that amount of money in a month by selling tickets for just $10 is shocking,” Passwater said.
“This really wasn’t a raffle for a gun,” he said. “It was a way for the local community to show its support for law enforcement and discontentment for the civil unrest that is occurring in some communities throughout our country.
“All of the area’s law enforcement offices appreciate the thought and effort that went into the event.”
BOURBONNAIS — A Bourbonnais man has been arrested after police say he pulled a gun on three people in a Jewel-Osco parking lot for not wearing masks inside the store on Tuesday.
Bourbonnais Police arrested Marc L. Boudreau, 60, of Bourbonnais, on charges of aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon. The incident occurred in the parking lot of the Jewel-Osco in the 600 block of Main Street NW.
Bourbonnais Deputy Police Chief Dave Anderson said officers responded to the parking lot at 10:46 p.m. Tuesday after KanComm dispatch received a call about a person threatening to shoot them.
Boudreau encountered three people at the store who were not wearing masks, Anderson said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing face masks is mandated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order. Anderson said Bourdreau waited outside in the parking lot and confronted them saying, “How would you like to get shot in the head?”
Boudreau showed them a Glock semi automatic handgun and chambered a bullet. Anderson said Boudreau had a concealed carry permit and valid FOID card.
Officers arrived and saw two vehicles leaving the parking lot. They stopped both.
The three victims were in one vehicle, while Bourdreau was the driver of the second.
“If you have a problem such as this, go to management and have them deal with this,” Anderson said. “Please do not take the law into your own hands.”
BRADLEY — Bradley Elementary School District 61 is pushing the start of the school year back two weeks to Sept. 8 in light of a positive COVID-19 case from a staff member.
In an emergency meeting Wednesday, the Bradley Elementary School Board gave the OK to administration to delay the start of the school year.
The board also gave input for administration to continue with the in-person blended learning model as planned but acknowledged that switching to remote-only at some point is a real possibility.
“We would really like to see the kids in person,” Superintendent Scott Goselin said. “We miss the kids. I know they miss being here with their teachers and their classmates, so we are still going to do whatever we can to make that happen.”
Parent orientations were scheduled for Wednesday through Friday this week, and the first day of school was set for Monday, Aug. 24.
Goselin said that although only one district staff member is currently confirmed to be COVID-19 positive, that person has been in close contact with at least five or six other staff members.
Those individuals will be required to follow quarantine protocols as well, so staffing would be an issue for that particular school if classes resumed Aug. 24 as planned, Goselin said.
Waiting until after Labor Day to start school will give close-contact individuals time to quarantine and return to work if they are symptom-free.
Goselin also tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks ago but has recovered.
He said he presented very mild symptoms and then quarantined and worked from home for 10 days after receiving positive test results.
Parent orientations will be rescheduled, and the three remote learning planning days that would have happened this week will be moved to Sept. 2-4.
The board is set to vote on a revised calendar at a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 in the Bradley West Cafeteria. The board will also reevaluate whether or not to switch to fully remote learning at that time.
The district’s back-to-school plan has students attending school for four hours per day and completing an hour of remote instruction after school.
About 350 students so far have opted to do completely remote learning, amounting to about 27 percent of the district.
Board members discussed difficulties that the CDC’s current guidelines present for schools.
For example, students have to be sent home and quarantined for 10 days upon showing any COVID-19 symptoms, from a fever or a cough to a runny nose.
They can only return to school with a negative COVID-19 test or a note from a doctor with an alternate diagnosis.
District Nurse Jennifer Vaughn said that if a student has even one symptom they will have to be placed in the isolation area of the school and sent home because of how fast the virus can spread.
“Even if I have a kid that I know has asthma, I’ve known them for years, I know they have an asthma problem, they still have to go home because it’s not worth the chance of spreading [COVID-19] to the other kids and the staff members,” she said. “So, I send that kid home; they have to isolate for 10 days because they are assumed to have it.”
Schools will also have to determine who was in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with the student or staff member who showed symptoms and send those individuals home as well. Additionally, if a student is sent home because they showed COVID-19 symptoms, their siblings or others who live in their household have to be sent home as well.
“We may have to shut down a whole grade level at a time if we feel like we can’t contact trace and it could be a lot of kids,” Goselin said. “We are dealt a hand that’s going to be very challenging for us, but we’re ready and prepared.”
The first few weeks of school will be used to orient students to online learning platforms and distribute electronic devices in the event the district has to switch to fully remote learning in the future.
Goselin said that the district will continue to monitor information from health department officials, including COVID-19 trends in the area and possible changes in the recommended guidance for schools.
He said it’s possible and likely that the situation will change by Labor Day.
“If we see kids for one day, two days, three days or five days, that’s something,” he said. “That’s great for our kids and our staff to get face-to-face interaction, maybe meet the teacher for the first time, those types of things.”