May 31 was officially Officer Mark Dallas Day in Illinois.
Naming the day after Dallas, a 15-year veteran of the Dixon Police Department who risked his life taking down a school shooter last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner gathered with Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) and media at a press conference to announce the accolade.
Rauner said Illinois law enforcement, which is among the finest police officers in the world, is owed the fullest and utmost respect. He gave respect to Dallas by reading aloud part of the proclamation written for his actions on May 16.
“Everyday these great men and women face grave risks and put their lives on the line to perform their duties,” Rauner read.
Dallas stopped the Lee County school shooting, saving the lives of students, teachers and school staff members he was sworn to protect, Rauner said.
“Officer Dallas heroically confronted an individual from firing a rifle into the Dixon High School gymnasium where students were gathered for a graduation rehearsal, stopping the shooting and taking the suspect into custody,” Rauner read from the proclamation.
Taking the microphone, Dallas thanked Rauner, Bivens and Demmer for presenting him with the honor.
“Two weeks ago today, I chased down a school shooter just as he was about to walk into a crowded gymnasium,” Dallas said. “My own son, Joshua, was in that gymnasium with other children in our high school.”
Under his watch, he was not going to let anymore high school students fall prey to a shooter, Dallas said.
“I am humbled by those who refer to me as a hero, but I respectfully and sincerely reject that label because I much prefer 'dad',” Dallas added.
Dallas said just like any parent, he drops his children off at school every day.
“We can no longer deny school shootings have become a horrific part of our new national norm,” Dallas said.
But that must change, he added. He said elected officials have the opportunity to be heroes themselves by supporting and training school resource officers in public schools.
“You will save our children’s lives by doing so,” Dallas said.
He acknowledged his Dixon Police Department superiors, saying it was their forward thinking and training that prepared him.
“I share today’s recognition with each one of them; they fully deserve it,” Dallas said.
Bivens said lawmakers hoped to create a day that the officer and his family would remember.
“I do not recall anyone from Dixon other than Ronald Reagan having a day named after them,” Bivens said.
Calling Dallas a hometown hero, Demmer said he has personally seen the officer patrolling the high school hallways.
“He has a great rapport with the students, and he is a trusted and valued member of that community,” Demmer added.
Though Dallas was present in the most important moment, he is there for the students every day, Demmer said.
“I am pleased that we can honor you today at the Capitol, but I am even more pleased that every day we get to come home to Dixon, a community that is served so well by the Dixon police,” Demmer said.