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Chicago Police Dispatcher Keith Thornton, Praised For Handling Of Shooting That Killed Officer Ella French, Asks People To Show Support To Officers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago Police dispatcher was being applauded across the country Monday for how he coordinated the response to the shooting over the weekend that killed Chicago Police Officer Ella French and critically wounded her partner.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, Keith Thornton was on duty Saturday night when the call came in for two officers shot in the line of duty.

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, officers with the Community Safety Team conducted a traffic stop around 9 p.m. near 63rd Street and Bell Avenue in West Englewood. Three people were in the car -- two men and a woman. During the traffic stop, someone in the vehicle opened fire on police, who returned fire.

Officer French was killed, and her male officer partner was left in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Recordings from those crucial moments after the shooting show how he got backup to those officers in a matter of seconds.

"I got an officer down 10-1, 10-1. Six-three and Bell. Officer down. Officer down. Shots fired at the police. Officer down," Thornton was heard saying over dispatch radio.

A 10-1 is an emergency backup call.

In the wake of the shooting, it is no wonder that Keith Thornton's name is trending on social media. It was clear and unwavering, instructing officers to keep the airwaves open for his commands.

He ordered a perimeter, and gave detailed descriptions of the suspects believed to have taken the life of the 29-year-old Officer while wounding her partner.

"Guys, I got my job. Do yours. Take care of my officers out there," Thornton was heard saying "Got two ambulances rolling."

He even rattled off CPR instructions to the officers taking care of the French.

"OK, listen to me. Take that damn vest off right now and start compressions. Start breathing whatever we got to do, start it now," Thornton was heard saying. "While you're driving, the officer in the back with her take her vest off and start compressions now. You've got the air."

Thornton is a Police Communication Operator with Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. After receiving the praise, he issued a poignant post on Facebook.

Thornton wrote: "I'm good. I'm well. Don't worry about a thing. Even though this catastrophe took place under my watch, and as devastating as it was, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else."

Thornton wrote that he has been in his professional field since 2001, and has dealt with "death, murder, and suicide on a constant basis amongst things that most people would never imagine."

Family & Friends, I'm good. I'm well. Don't worry about a thing. Even though this catastrophe took place under my...

Posted by Keith A. Thornton Jr. on Monday, August 9, 2021

He continued: "I had a bad day the other day. We all did. Whether one was on the scene, on the other side of the radio as a dispatcher or citizen just listening, or inside the ER working hard to save our heroes. But with time, it'll get better so as long as we keep our faith, hope, and love.

"I got backup to my police officers in a matter of seconds during the time that they needed it the most. I was fortunate enough to have my backup with me from the very beginning all the way until now - His name is God."

Thornton asked his followers to keep Officer French and her partner in their prayers – and also called upon everyone to show support to police officers.

"Our culture has to change. Our society has to change. Our mindsets have to change. We as people must change. Do this for me. Do this for her. Do this for our police officers who are hurting each and every day because many of them feel unsupported, unloved, and on edge. No one wants to live like this and no one should have to work like this," he wrote. "Get out of your car, stop midway through your jog or walk, and make a purposeful effort to show my brothers and sisters in blue YOUR LOVE for them. This is what we are to do with our positive energies today and every day."

April Heinze, 911 and PSAP Operations Director, for the National Emergency Number Association, told Hickey that Thornton stood up to the plate in every way.

"It's just it is really on inspiring when you get to see public safety number one professional do the job that they do," Heinze said. "You just don't notice it all the time."

Heinze said training is crucial, but that cool, calm demeanor often comes with experience.

"You don't think about all of the things you're doing," she said. "You have to be able to do it as second nature."

All three suspects in the shooting were taken into custody over the weekend. Two were charged Monday.

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