Fire official charged with attempted murder

Police say Gary Swiercz, who began his firefighting career in Worth in 1984, had a knife, 8-inch sex toy and lubricant when he broke into woman's condo

By Laura Bolin

A Chicago Ridge Fire Department official is accused of trying to sexually assault and kill a woman after he allegedly broke into her Tinley Park condominium and attacked her last Saturday.

Gary M. Swiercz, 49, who lives in the same building as the alleged victim, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated unlawful restraint, home invasion and residential burglary.

Swiercz, the deputy fire chief in Chicago Ridge and a former chief of the since-disbanded Worth Fire Department, allegedly broke into the woman's unit early Saturday morning at the building in the 8100 block of 168th Place. Swiercz allegedly beat the woman, attempted to tie her up and sexually assault her, and threatened to slit her throat with a folding knife.

At one point during the attack he allegedly forced her to the floor and smashed her head against the tile surface. The alleged victim was reportedly treated on the scene for minor injuries.

Swiercz reportedly entered the apartment with the knife as well as rope, zip-ties, an 8-inch sex toy and a bottle of lubricant.

A neighbor who reportedly heard a woman screaming reported the alleged incident to police, who reportedly found Swiercz in the parking lot of the condominium building and arrested him at 2:35 a.m.

Swiercz has been placed on indefinite leave from the department pending an "investigation surrounding criminal charges regarding an allegation of home invasion," according to a statement from the Chicago Ridge Fire Department. At the time of the alleged attack, Swiercz was "off duty and not performing any duty in his official capacity with the Chicago Ridge Fire Department," according to the statement. Fire department officials refused to comment further on the matter.

Swiercz, who retired Monday after posting $15,000 bail, is under court-mandated electronic surveillance while staying at his parent's home in Worth.

Swiercz has been with the Chicago Ridge Fire Department for 24 years. No members of the department ever had a problem with him and he has never before been placed on administrative leave before, said Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski.

Swiercz began his firefighter career in Worth in 1984 as a paid on-call firefighter, a position he held until 1991. He began working full-time as a deputy chief in Chicago Ridge in 1988. He returned to Worth in 2004 as a part-time fire chief, and served in that role until November 2006 following the death of Chief Don Stefaniak, then served another five months in Worth as parttime chief from August 2008 to December 2008. The Worth Fire Department was dissolved Jan. 1, 2009 when control was handed over to the North Palos Fire Protection District.