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Baseball begins

Churchill School fourth-graders get a look from the
roof of the SWAT vehicle before the members of 
the South Suburban Emergency Response Team 
delivered them to school.

(Photos by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Seven fourth graders arrived in style at Churchill School in Homewood on Friday.

Owen Harrison and six friends got to ride to school in a SWAT vehicle.

  Adam Tovar is ready for
  action thanks to SSERT 
  team members, who gave 
  him a chance to wear some 
  of their gear.

Owen’s parents, Sean and Dina Harrison, won the SWAT silent auction item at the South Suburban Humane Society’s 2016 gala.

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At 7:35 a.m. the South Suburban Emergency Response Team’s SWAT vehicle pulled up in front of the Harrison house on Highland Avenue in Homewood and the excited boys left their donut treats for the ride of a lifetime.

Park Forest Police Officer J.P. Garrity and Chicago Heights paramedic Alex Chapleau put two boys in bullet-proof vests and helmets. They opened the back of the vehicle and the boys jumped in to get a better look at the equipment and pop out of the hatch.

  Timmy Van Etten outfitted 
  in SSERT gear. 

The armored vehicle was specially built for the South Suburban Emergency Response Team (SSERT), said the group’s commander Patrick Siemsen, a sergeant with the Homewood Police Department. The SSERT team uses the vehicle for the protection of officers and citizens during critical incidents, including high risk searches, barricaded gunmen, hostage situations and other critical incidents.

But on Friday, the vehicle drove around Homewood neighborhoods for a short time before arriving at Churchill School where Principal Cece Coffey had classmates ready to cheer on the SWAT vehicle and the six passengers as they pulled into the Churchill driveway.

“It was awesome,” Owen said after he jumped from the vehicle.

“It was fun,” said Timmy Van Etten. “And educational. We learned about guns,” said Jar’on Powell.

Garrity and Chapleau agreed it was a good way for them to start their day.

Siemsen said SSERT has 100 officers from approximately 40 towns in South Cook County, and coordinates with Cook County Sheriff and Illinois Police SWAT teams, federal, Cook County and Homeland Security agencies.

It was quite a ride for these fourth graders and their
drivers (from left) Vinicios Dias De Sousa, Adam Tovar,
paramedic Alex Chapleau, Timmy Van Etten, Owen
Harrison, Reuben Yolo, Jar’on Powell, Parker
Lomaglio and Officer J.P Garrity.

Correction: Timmy Van Etten’s name was misspelled in the first version of this story. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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