Boy critical after Beverly Park attack

July 18, 2006


He'd helped his mom in the kitchen and it was a hot summer day, so Ryan Rusch did what any other 14-year-old would. He asked to go out to play. "Anything else, ma? Can I go now?" he said to his mother Sunday afternoon in their Beverly home.

Joanne Rusch sent her 14-year-old out -- with her cell phone so she could stay in touch. She assumes he headed straight for Beverly Park at 103rd and Campbell toward a friend's house.

But he wasn't gone 10 minutes when her phone rang and a fellow parishioner from St. John Fisher told her Ryan had been hurt at the park, just about two blocks from their home. Even stranger, her sweet, fragile son who has had three open-heart surgeries was attacked.

Ryan Rusch, who has had three open-heart surgeries, is critical after being beaten Sunday afternoon in Beverly Park, 103rd and Campbell. (AL PODGORSKI/ SUN-TIMES)

"I said 'What? Ryan?' . . . He is such a nice kid. It just breaks my heart that someone could just do this to someone like Ryan."

Heart appears to be OK

Chicago Police believe Ryan was the victim of a random robbery. Three teens beat him, possibly with a blunt object, and stole the cell phone during the attack at about 2:15 p.m.

Joanne Rusch said her son's watch also is missing.

Ryan was in critical condition on Monday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, his mother said. She said that doctors had checked his heart, but that so far everything looked OK.

Two of the alleged offenders were in custody, said Calumet Area Sgt. Michael Burke.

A 17-year-old boy was charged Tuesday, added as a co-defendant to a 16-year-old boy, both of whom are accused of robbing and beating a 14-year-old boy in Beverly Park.

Michael Eatman, 17, of the 9900 block of South Malta Street, was charged with one count each of strong armed robbery and aggravated battery, according to police News Affairs. He was slated to appear in Violence Court at noon Wednesday.

The 16-year-old boy was ordered detained on Tuesday. Juvenile Court Judge Carol A. Kelly ordered the boy held on one count of robbery and three counts of aggravated battery -- including battery with a deadly weapon, battery on a public way and battery causing great bodily harm, according to Cook County State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton.

The 16-year-old, whose name was not disclosed because he is a minor, was ordered to return to court July 24 before Juvenile Judge Rodney Hughes Brooks, she added.

Police officer witnessed beating

Burke said one offender was caught immediately because of an off-duty Chicago Police officer who saw the beating and chased the subjects.

"Oh my God, if he doesn't get an award,'' Joanne Rusch said, her voice breaking. "He went out of his way to help my son . . . on a hot, sunny afternoon. My son could probably have been left to die.''

Rusch also credited the other officers who responded, helping to round up the offenders.

Ryan, one of three children, was born with a defect in his heart valves.

Since then, he has had three surgeries to repair the damage. He is awaiting his fourth surgery now, his mother said.

The heart condition meant he could not play sports, so Ryan was a manager on the St. John Fisher football team, his mother said.

"He is a fragile human being," Rusch said. "That was a lot of stress he took yesterday."