Deputies surprised by gunfire under the darkness of night: A story of courage and thanksgiving

What began as a typical midnight shift patrolling the quiet streets of Island Lake, quickly turned menacing when officers were alerted that sheriff’s deputies had come under fire in nearby Holiday Hills.

Within minutes of the call for help, at about 1:40 a.m. Island Lake Police Officers arrived at a crime scene to find two McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies gunned down and the armed assailant’s whereabouts unknown.

Under the cover of darkness on that chilly October morning three deputies made a well-being check on a home of a man now charged with opening fire on them. Authorities say that Scott B. Peters shot 15 .223-caliber bullets from a long-range AR 15 assault rifle at the deputies, seriously injuring two.

The harrowing incident has given new meaning to Thanksgiving for those involved.

Island Lake Police Officer Victoria Gwizdak, a single mom who lives with her 12-year-old daughter in Lake in the Hills, said this was the first time she was involved in an incident such as this – a shooter hidden in darkness, not knowing where he may have been or if he was still aiming his rifle at her and fellow officers.

She kept calm, did all that she was trained to do, continued to protect the fallen officers – but admitted that all the while she also thought about her own young daughter, and whether she would make it back home to her at the end of this shift.

“I’m most grateful that we all got home safe,” Gwizdak said noting that the injured deputies -whom she never met before this fateful night- also had loved ones and young children depending on them to make it home safe.

Last week, the wounded deputies Dwight Maness, 46, and Khalia Satkiewicz, 39, were present when Island Lake Deputy Chief David Walz detailed the first few terrifying moments when Gwizdak and officer Gilbert Hueramo drove down the dark road leading to Peters’ home at 1313 W. Northeast Shore Drive, spotted the wounded officers and protected them.

“Anybody and everybody on the street that night was in extreme danger,” Walz said.

Hueramo, 48, found Satkiewicz crouched down between two squad cars. She told him there was a shooter inside the white house and said she needed a tourniquet for Maness.

As Gwizdak covered him and moved Satkiewicz out of harms way, Hueramo ran to Maness lying in the street about 150 feet away, Hueramo applied a tourniquet to his bleeding left leg.

Not knowing where the shooter was or if he was going to continue shooting, Hueramo drug Maness further from the property with his left hand, keeping his right hand free to grab his gun if necessary. He was headed toward an iron fence that separates a neighboring subdivision, hoping to find a gate to get out of the possible line of fire. But in the darkness it was impossible to find it.

Once help arrived to care for Satkiewicz, Gwizdak ran to assist Hueramo and Maness. She had to climb over a 6-foot fence to reach them.

As Hueramo tried to turn Maness over to pick him up and carry him, Maness yelled out in pain, and the officers saw the deputy also had been shot in the back. One grabbing each hand, they carried him further away from the property. Hueramo prepared to drive Maness to the hospital himself, but moments later an ambulance and other help arrived.

“They did not hesitate to help their fellow officers and we are very proud of what they did,” Walz said.

Gwizdak said 19 hours after the incident began she returned home to see her daughter Jessica, 12.

“I gave her a hug of a lifetime,” she said. “But I was kind of sad for Khalia and Dwight.” Gwizdak said as the day’s events “settled in” it hit her that she returned home at the end of the day, and they were in the hospital.

“I’m so thankful that I was there and I did a good job,” she said.

On Thanksgiving Day Gwizdak said she will be most thankful for the loving people in her life, simple thoughts that may have been taken for granted on holiday’s past.

“I think that (I will) probably remember the real meaning of Thanksgiving,” she said.

“It won’t be that we are getting together to eat and stuff ourselves. It’s more we are thankful for what’s in front of you and whose in front of you. … We get busy in our lives and take lives for granted and when something like this happens you remember what you are thankful for and how lucky you are. … And to know (Maness and Satkiewicz) are gonna be home for thanksgiving … doesn’t that sound awesome?”

Gwizdak’s thoughts also turn to Peters’ own 12-year-old daughter this Thanksgiving.

”I hope she can have a somewhat normal Thanksgiving,” she said. “I hope she can be with the people that do love her … I hope she feels loved on that day.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, Jessica said she is thankful for her home and having parents who care for her. She is especially thankful her mom made it home that day. She said she is proud of her mother.

“I’m happy she wasn’t the one that got shot,” she said.

Hueramo, Gwizdak and a third officer Lisa Knebl were presented with life saving awards from the Island Lake Police Department and awards for bravery from the mayor of Holiday Hills.

Hueramo, of Mt. Prospect, today works as a part-time police officer in the far northwest suburban community, but has worked in law enforcement for 20 years including as a police officer on the city’s south side where he has come under gunfire.

He said he is most thankful he was on duty Oct. 16.

He originally was not scheduled to work but was called in at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday when another officer went home sick.

When reflecting on the holiday, Hueramo said he is thankful for the extra training he had received form the Illinois Tactical Officers Association which prepared him for responding in an active shooter scenario and officer rescue.

“It was just the luck of the draw that I was there,” he said adding that no other Island Lake officer has the extensive training he has, nor do they carry the battery of medical supplies that he has been trained to carry, including the tourniquets he had to wrap the deputies’ wounds.

“I’m thankful I was there because Dwight has a family, he’s got kids, Khalia has kids …,” he said adding he is thankful McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Luna was there on the scene first.

“If Eric Luna wasn’t there we could have all been killed,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Eric Luna returning fire … the guy would have killed them and as we would have been coming down the street he would have tried to kill us,” Hueramo said.

Hueramo said Maness’s chances for survival came down to the wire, having lost three pints of blood by the time he made it to the hospital. The officers arrived on the scene in three minutes, Hueramo said had it taken them five minutes to arrive and rescue the fallen deputies there could have been a more grave outcome.

“Thank God everything happened the way it did,” he said. “We were literally down to the minuets before it could have been all over.”

Hueramo’s mother Anne said this holiday season she is thankful her son is alive and that he was able to be there for the wounded deputies. She said although she knows her son is in a dangerous line of work, this incident really brought that fact to life.

“The man who did that, it was his intent to shoot the officers, that is what he wanted to do … like a trap or something,” she said. “He could have been killed very easy … I am very thankful, happy he wasn’t shot and he’s still alive and that no body else was killed either. It could have gone the opposite way very easy.”

After last week’s award’s ceremony, Satkiewiz’s husband, Illinois State Police Major Sgt. Robert Satkiewicz walked up and shook Hueramo’s hand and said thank you.

“I think they’re heroes,” he said. “I think they’re awesome.”

Police Chief Keith Nygren recently presented Maness and Satkiewicz with Purple Hearts. Luna, who sheltered the wounded officers while exchanging gunfire with Peters was honored with the Award of Valor. Luna is back at work while Maness and Satkiewicz are still recovering.

The Oct. 16 incident drew hundreds of police officers from several departments from across the state.

Peters, 52, who led police on a 17-hour manhunt before being captured that day, is being held in the McHenry County jail on $7 million bond. He has pleaded not guilty to six counts of first-degree attempted murder, five counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm at a peace officer acting in the official capacity, and two counts of aggravated battery discharge of a firearm at a peace officer acting in an official duty.

Peters is expected back in court Dec. 12. The charges against Peters carry “special sentencing” because he shot at police officers, prosecutors said. He faces a minimum of 165 years to natural life in prison if convicted.

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