Letter to the Editor: PB&PA president calls officers heroes, thanks many who assisted on day of shooting

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Officer Matthew Hermsmeier, left, and Officer Gabriel VanderMaiden with the Quincy Police Department | Photos courtesy of Quincy Police Department

Our world at the Quincy Police Department (QPD) was turned upside down on Jan. 11, 2024.

On this date around noon, Officer Matthew Hermsmeier was shot in the right arm while on the scene of a domestic disturbance and acting as a field training officer for Officer Gabriel VanderMaiden. Both officers have since been cleared of any potential wrongdoing by the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office after the Illinois State Police (ISP) investigated this officer-involved shooting. 

That is standard protocol and must happen after an incident like this occurs. I would like to thank both ISP and the state’s attorney’s office for their thoroughness and integrity during this investigation. 

As the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association (PB&PA) Unit 12 president, I believe I need to inform the public of some things that were not standard protocol on Jan. 11. 

This day started as a standard day for mid-January in our town. This particular call, however, was not standard. Matt being shot was not standard. Matt, after being shot, fighting for control over a pistol with a man who intended to kill him was not standard. Matt fought, though, with the strength and heart of a warrior.

Gabe’s day started as a standard day for a QPD rookie in field training. It quickly changed into what I can only imagine was a whirlwind of different emotions for him. Gabe watched his field training officer get shot. He did not know where Matt was shot but just knew that he was. Gabe decided in a matter of split seconds to use deadly force to defend the lives of two other people on the scene, as well as Matt’s and his own.

That is far from standard, and that decision will undoubtedly haunt Gabe for the rest of his life.

When the threat was stopped, their tasks were still not complete. Matt was accessed by himself and Gabe, and both decided to apply a tourniquet above Matt’s gunshot wound because they did not know the severity of Matt’s bleeding at the time. Both Matt and Gabe also used their portable radios to call for assistance. 

An overwhelming number of officers arrived on the scene from QPD, Illinois State Police and the Adams County Sherriff’s Department. Words cannot describe the level of appreciation I have for each one of you who responded to that scene, no matter the role you played. 

Matt was loaded into an Adams County Sheriff’s Department vehicle and driven to Blessing Hospital’s Emergency Room. Once at the ER, Matt was accessed and the tourniquet was removed from his arm. This is where I joined Matt after completing my role at the scene of the shooting. Matt was in good spirits and put on a brave smile through the pain. Matt’s only worries were with his family, Gabe and the man in the house whom he knew was severely injured. 

At this time, we were notified by the emergency room physician that Matt was extremely lucky. The bullet found one of the places on the human body where you would want to be shot if you were going to get shot. Matt’s family then arrived at the ER, with his wife arriving first and never leaving his side until they left Blessing Hospital together the next day.

I believe it is important for transparency’s sake that all who read this know and try to understand what that call was like. 

Matt and Gabe are heroes. I believe they saved the lives of two people that day who are not police officers. I also believe Gabe saved Matt’s life that day as well as his own. Unfortunately, a life was lost, and I truly do feel for that family. 

Matt received visible wounds that day. Gabe and Matt also received wounds that only they and their loved ones will ever see. That is a burden that Matt understands all too well. Now Gabe unfortunately shares this burden at such a young age. Jan. 11 was VanderMaiden’s seventh day working as a patrol officer on field training at QPD. 

One young man will remain nameless and must be due to Illinois’ juvenile laws. This young man heroically saved his mother’s life on Jan. 11. I hope this day does not haunt your thoughts and dreams, even though I know that may be impossible. Young man, you are a hero as well. Thank you for being vigilant and steadfast in the face of danger. Your actions saved your mother’s life that day and probably your own.

To the victim of the crime that did occur, I hope you find peace and heal. I know my words will do nothing for you and can do nothing to help you. I want you to know you are in our thoughts and prayers. If it is needed, our officers will be there again for you. Hopefully, you and your son will never need to dial 911 again. 

Unfortunately, officer-involved shootings are becoming a more common headline in this area. This incident and two other officer-involved shootings in the past year have either originated from or occurred in Quincy. Two subjects fled from law enforcement in Quincy and were involved in shootings with Missouri law enforcement. This trend is not something that we want, nor is it something that we understand.

I want to finish by thanking a lot of people on behalf of the Hermsmeier, VanderMaiden and QPD families:

  • The men and women of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department for their fearless response to that scene.
  • The men and women of the Adams County Ambulance Service for their fearless response to that scene. Thank you for doing your absolute best to get there quickly, and thank you for trying to save the life of the other man who was involved in this shooting.
  • The troopers of Troop 6 of the Illinois State Police for their fearless response to that scene and Lt. Poole for his guidance and reassurance to a certain union president who had never gone through an incident quite like this.
  • The men and women of Adams County Dispatch for remaining calm behind the mic and guiding much-needed resources to the scene.
  • The emergency room, operating room, and third-floor staff at Blessing Hospital … thank you for taking care of Matt, Gabe, and their families. Thank you for also trying to save the life of the other man involved in this shooting.
  • The Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office for responding to the scene and the hospital to check on all parties involved.
  • To Quincy Mayor Michael Troup … your visit to Matt and his family in the hospital means more than you will ever know. 
  • To State Rep. Randy Frese, thank you for your kind letter to the Hermsmeier family. 
  • The Quincy community and the greater tri-state area community for your support and concern for Matt. You are all amazing and made this process about as bearable as it could be.

Thank you to the VanderMaiden family for your patience, understanding and love.

Thank you to the Hermsmeier and McColez families. You all came together as one in support of your officer. Thank you for letting us be there with you. Thank you for letting me be there for you. I hope I showed you the same kindness and love you showed me. 

To the men and women of QPD, remember that moment when you heard, “Dispatch 122, I’ve been shot.” Act every day as you did the very next second. Take care of each other and stop at nothing to help your brothers and sisters. 

To those who I undoubtedly missed, I apologize. 

Robert MeGee
PB&PA Unit 12 President 
Quincy Police Department
Quincy, Illinois

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