OEMC dispatcher Keith Thornton is being praised on social media for his quick thinking—doing his best to guide Chicago police officers on what turned out to be a dangerous and tragic night.
“Picking up Keith after the shift he was torn. His biggest thing is getting his officers home safely and he wasn’t able to do that that night,” said friend Ian Matthew Lopez. “Just seeing his demeanor and how everything was different that night just for the moment he walked out of work it was hard to see him that way.”
Matthew Lopez is Thornton’s friend. The two have known each other for several years and said he cried listening to the scanner traffic.
“My emotions were ever everywhere I was in tears and talking to him, now days later,” he said. “I now realized he himself was in tears as everything was going on.”
The emergency call came in Saturday night.
“I got an officer down. 10-1. 10-1. 63rd and Bell. Officer down! Officer down! Shots fired at the police!” Thornton said on the call.
The officer now identified as Ella French and her partner had been shot during a traffic stop. As they waited for more help to arrive, Thornton immediately called for officers to set up a perimeter to close in on the suspects.
“I want a perimeter set up. Three blocks north, south, east, west of that location. I got a male black in a blue shirt. A male black in a blue shirt,” said Thornton said on the call.
Officers ended up taking two suspects into custody and rushing French and her partner to the hospital.
“Listen to me officers. Officers going to Holy Cross, that is not a trauma center. We've got to get hem to a trauma center. Guys take them to U of C they’re a trauma center,” said Thornton on the call.
Through the chaos of the night, Matthew said his friend maintained his composure. But deep down he was hurting, having been a former police officer himself and knowing Officer French did not make it.
“Being on the other end was really hard for him,” said Matthew Lopez. “It wasn’t easy.”
Matthew went on Facebook to recognize his friend. The post was shared thousands of times.
“I know that he does this everyday and this is something that he does at work and does one hell of a job,” said Matthew.
People from across the country thanking Thornton for his service as a dispatcher, thanking Chicago police officers for serving and protecting the community, and remembering and honoring officer Ella French who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“He’s all going to put it into play to make sure everything is taken care of and Ella French’s name is not forgotten,” he said.
NBC 5 learned Thornton returned to work the following the day.