Metro-East News

Ten years later, blinded policeman Jon Brough vows ‘bad guy’ won’t win

Jon Brough says he is not going to let the “bad guy” win.

Ten years ago, Brough was a Belleville Police Department sergeant who was shot in the face by double-murder suspect Larry Sicka when Brough and other officers tried to enter a home where Sicka was hiding.

The shotgun blast blinded Brough. It was shortly before noon on Nov. 10, 2006. Hours later, Sicka committed suicide in the bathroom of the South First Street home. On the previous day, Sicka had stabbed to death his former father- and mother-in-law in Swansea.

Brough, now 58, admits there were times when he was down during the early phase of his recovery. But he resolved to surge forward and live his life to the fullest extent possible.

Brough said the fact that he had lost both of his eyes in the shooting didn’t totally sink in while he was under heavy medication after he was shot.

But he recalls an emotional day while at home with his wife, Wendy.

“Weeks and weeks later after I was home and I wasn’t on those drugs anymore, it was in the hallway just right over there,” he said during an interview at the kitchen table in his Belleville home.

“I was just walking through there and just all of the sudden it hit me like a baseball bat that I’m blind.”

“I literally broke down and cried very hard, very hard.”

Wendy helped him up.

“She cried very hard with me.”

Brough described what was going through his mind: “Why did this happen to me? And what am I going to do with rest of my life? I realized then I’m never going to see my wife again. Never going to see my boys.”

“You know, for a while there I was down in the dumps.”

He thought he just wanted to “crawl under that hole.”

But he put a halt to those thoughts.

“If I crawl into that hole and I stay there, then that means the bad guy is going to win, and I was not and I am not going to let that bad guy win.”

Giving thanks

When asked if there was something he wanted the community to know about the last 10 years, Brough had an immediate, heartfelt response: He wanted to thank everyone who has helped him.

“I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough. I have not forgotten them. I have not forgotten their prayers. I have not forgotten their support.”

“But to all of them, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Brough said his recovery from 32 surgical procedures all started with Wendy and their sons, Jon Jr. and Paul, and emanated from there to a long list of family, friends and members of the public on both sides of the river.

Wendy Brough was a nurse working at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville on the day her husband was shot and rushed to the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s, which is just a couple blocks away from the home where Brough was injured. He said she has been at his side ever since.

He looks forward to their 37th wedding anniversary in December. They met at the Steak ’n Shake on West Main Street while they were in high school. He went to Belleville West, and Wendy was at Belleville East.

You can get an idea of Brough’s sense of humor when he jokes that Wendy will help keep him from bumping into things — unless she’s mad at him.

His sons have both gotten married in the past 10 years, Jon Jr. to Emily and Paul to Hollie. And now Brough has four grandchildren to enjoy: Conlan, Brenner, Cassidy and Charlotte.

Brough has received support from a multitude of people and groups.

There were the ubiquitous “God Bless Jon Brough” bumper stickers that Brough said was the idea of the Rev. Gene Neff, who previously was assigned to St. Luke’s parish in Belleville.

Brough praised the BackStoppers for their support and the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, which raised money to buy a 2008 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle for him.

Brough once patrolled as a motorcycle officer for Belleville and was an avid motorcyclist before he was shot.

After Lehman Trikes USA Inc. presented Brough with a trike kit, which converts a motorcycle into a three-wheeled vehicle, Brough was able to ride as a passenger on his Honda.

Brough said he likes to listen to the MindsEye volunteers who read newspaper stories each morning from the group’s office at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows off Illinois 15 in Belleville.

Along with thanking everyone who has helped him over the years, Brough also wants the community to know about how important it is to donate blood.

He said he received pint after pint of life-saving, donated blood during his surgeries.

As a way to give back, he helps organize the annual Sgt. Jon Brough Blood Drive each July. The next one is planned for July 11 at the Quail Club at 8303 Concordia Church Road between Belleville and Millstadt. Brough said his goal each year is to have 100 pints collected but he has yet to make that goal, although he has come close.

A time for recognition

Brough joined the Belleville Police Department in January 1985 and retired as a sergeant in 2007 after 22 years of service. He also worked for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department in the jail and dispatching and the New Athens and O’Fallon police departments.

Along with serving as a motorcycle officer in Belleville, Brough also served on the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois, or MEGSI, and as the department’s D.A.R.E. officer.

In 2007, Brough received the Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the executive mansion in Springfield. This medal is the highest recognition for law enforcement officers in the state.

Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay nominated Brough for the award.

Clay told the BND at the time that the award for Brough recognized the “sacrifice he’s made and price he’s paid.”

A year later, the Southwestern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission and the Southern Illinois Police Chiefs’ Association presented Brough with the group’s Medal of Valor award.

Clay also nominated Brough for this award, which is for “conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of police service or that which is expected of a citizen.”

On Monday night, the city will honor Brough during the Belleville City Council meeting to acknowledge the 10th anniversary of his shooting, Mayor Mark Eckert said.

Eckert said the city will pay tribute to the 10 years Brough and his wife have “courageously fought” for his recovery.

The 7 p.m. ceremony also will serve as a reminder of the dangers that police officers encounter each day on the job, Eckert said.

Indeed, those dangers remain.

Last month, Brough participated in the funeral procession for St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder, who was fatally shot while on duty on Oct. 6. A teenager has been charged in connection with Snyder’s death. Brough rode in a car driven by his nephew, Jason Whiteside, who is a detective in the robbery/homicide division for the St. Louis County Police Department.

Brough said he was impressed by the number of people who lined up along the funeral procession route for Snyder.

He believes the vast majority of the public has great support for law enforcement officers and other first responders.

Brough also participated in the funeral procession on Thursday for Chester Police Officer James Brockmeyer, who died Oct. 28 when his squad car crashed near Chester during a pursuit of a suspect who later was arrested in Missouri. Brough rode with Belleville Master Sgt. Rob Thomason.

Tough, physical workouts

Twice a week, Brough goes to work out at the Complete Supplements gym at 111 S. Jackson St. in downtown Belleville.

Bill Haskins, who owns the gym, was Brough’s first trainer about five years ago.

“His tenacity is what struck me at first,” said Haskins, who doesn’t charge gym fees for Brough.

Haskins said sometimes clients want to cancel a workout because they don’t feel like going to the gym. But he said Brough never wants to cancel an appointment.

“The guy just pushes,” Haskins said. “I wish I could bottle his enthusiasm and his drive because it’s unbelievable.”

Brough continues his workouts despite walking difficulties caused by complications from a bone graft surgery on his left leg as part of an effort to seal a hole in his upper palate in 2008.

Brough’s current personal trainer is Ted Harris, who retired from the Fairview Heights Police Department after 34 and a half years.

“Jon and I have adopted a saying, it’s from the movie ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ with Clint Eastwood and it’s, ‘You improvise. You adapt. You overcome’ and that’s what we do.”

Harris said he doesn’t put Brough through an exercise that “I haven’t practiced with my eyes closed.”

“This working out stuff is hard, it’s physical and I’m right there with him each step of the way,” Harris said. “I push Jon to do what he doesn’t think he can do. And it’s so good for him to have that sense of accomplishment to actually use his body in a very strict, physical way.”

“It just elates him sometimes when he accomplishes a set and people in the gym come up and congratulate him.”

Brough can chest-press 305 pounds and handle 255 pounds on the triceps press.

Harris, who has trained Brough for two years, said even when Brough’s tendonitis flairs up, he keeps going.

“Jon’s not a quitter,” Harris said of his longtime friend.

Harris and Brough once worked together as undercover narcotic agents when they both were assigned to MEGSI.

Harris said Brough always wanted to jump feet-first “into the mess.”

“He was fearless.”

Want to go?

  • What: Ceremony to honor Jon Brough, a retired Belleville police sergeant who was blinded by a double-murder suspect on Nov. 10, 2006.
  • When: 7 p.m. Monday during the Belleville City Council meeting
  • Where: Lindenwood University-Belleville, in the banquet hall of the Alan J. Dixon Building, 2600 W. Main St.