Three officers at the Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro have been presented with Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) awards for their actions in January 2023 when they came to the aid of 22 fellow officers who were stricken by an unknown substance they encountered in the prison.
“Correctional Officer Rodney Stewart, Sergeant John Schaake and Correctional Food Supervisor Patty Rufus unhesitatingly rushed to help their fellow officers and several inmates, despite not knowing if they themselves would be felled by the mysterious substance causing the sudden illnesses,” said FOP Corrections Lodge 263 President Scot Ward. “Their actions not only assisted their fellow officers, but prevented a dangerous situation from getting out of hand.’”
On January 18, 2023 several Graham staff and inmates in one housing unit suddenly began experiencing shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and some began to experience seizures. Officer Stewart, who had received Emergency Medical Technician training, and Sergeant Schaake responded to the housing unit and began to administer medical assistance to those who were stricken. Stewart and Schaake also helped to secure the unit despite not knowing what was causing the symptoms to occur and not knowing if they might be endangering themselves by exposure to the unknown substance that was causing the illnesses. Stewart and Schaake were each awarded FOP Meritorious Service Awards for their actions.
Correctional Food Supervisor Rufus responded to the same situation by assisting the facility’s nursing staff as they attended to the exposure victims. Rufus took these actions even though they were not part of her job duties, and despite the fact that she did not know if the unknown substance would affect her as well. Rufus received the FOP Back the Blue Award for her actions that day.
Over the next three hours, 22 staff members and numerous inmates experienced symptoms that were severe enough that they had to be treated at area hospitals. Although the source of the sudden illnesses was never officially determined, all of those who were stricken were administered the anti-narcotic drug Narcan as a precaution.
Stewart, Schaake and Rufus are members of FOP Corrections Lodge 263.
The Fraternal Order of Police, founded in 1915, is the largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. With a proud tradition of officers representing officers, the FOP is the most respected and most recognized police organization in the country. The Illinois FOP, chartered in 1963, is the second largest State Lodge, proudly representing more than 34,000 active duty and retired police officers – more than 10 percent of all FOP members nationwide. Visit www.ilfop.org for more information.