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NEWS | April 26, 2024

Illinois National Guard Soldier Recognized for Valor in Stopping Multiple Murder Suspect

Winnebago County presented Illinois Army National Guard Spc. Michael Gambino, a military policeman with the Freeport-based 333rd Military Police Company, with two awards for valor on April 25.

Gambino, a Winnebago County deputy sheriff, apprehended a man accused of killing four people and wounding several others. He was among the first law enforcement officers on the scene of the March 27 multiple murders and his quick actions are credited with putting an end to a violent rampage.   

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana presented Gambino with “The Valor Award” for “swift thinking, professional actions, bravery, and courage on March 27 that led to the arrest of an active killer.” Winnebago County Board Chairman Joseph V. Chiarelli, presented Gambino with the “Chairman’s Hero Award” in recognition of his “extraordinary effort and selfless actions.” Both awards were presented during the Winnebago County board meeting at the Winnebago County Courthouse, in Rockford, Illinois, on April 25.

According to published reports, Deputy Sheriff Gambino chased the suspect, later identified as 22-year-old Christian Soto, through the Rockford neighborhood, subdued him and brought him into custody.

“Spc. Gambino’s actions were nothing short of incredible – yet absolutely expected. He is, has been, and will continue to be an outstanding Soldier, police officer, and leader,” said Staff Sgt. Lily Meyer-Volinek, Gambino’s squad leader in the 333rd Military Police Co.

Gambino, a Rockford native, has been in the National Guard for more than five years and has been a Sheriff’s Deputy for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department for the past three years.

“We trained for days like these, although the majority of officers will never experience a day like that,” Gambino said. “But the main thing is remembering all lives lost.”

His fellow Soldiers in the 333rd Military Police Co. also expressed their condolences to a community that suffered loss and trauma on March 27. “My team and I are incredibly saddened for the families afflicted by the attacker and offer our condolences for the losses felt across the community,” Meyer-Volinek said.

Gambino expressed gratitude to the Illinois Army National Guard for giving him a good start to his career.

“The military definitely got me started on what I wanted to do with my life,” Gambino said. “It was one of those points where I needed some structure. The military gave me that, and that’s ultimately how I decided I wanted to be a police officer.”

“I learned most of my tactical skill through the Illinois National Guard and that really transferred over to my civilian career,” Gambino said. “I was with a lot of great leaders at the 333rd Military Police Company, and I will take what I’ve learned from them and hopefully teach others on the civilian side.”

“The Illinois Army National Guard teaches both skills and values,” said Capt. Chad Harris, the commander of the 333rd Military Police Co. “When you read the Army Values – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage – Specialist Gambino lives all of those, both as a Soldier and as a law enforcement professional.”