The Good Neighbor
It could have ended like so many tragic stories of gun violence that increasingly dominate today’s headlines. Fifty police officers unsuccessfully tried for 12 hours to end a Sept. 16, 2022, standoff with an armed man barricaded in his Highland Park, Ill., home. Increasingly desperate after a SWAT negotiator failed, they turned to a volunteer with no law enforcement experience who had pestered them for hours for a chance to persuade the gunman to surrender.
“He was a neighbor of mine,” says Ross Fishman, ’82 LAS. “An especially nice and helpful individual, well-liked by everyone—a good guy who was simply under strain. How can you not want to help someone like that?”
While his work as an attorney, legal marketer and frequent public speaker for Fishman Marketing gave Fishman the pertinent persuasion skills, he also relied on his education. “The speech communications training I received at U of I came into play,” he says. “As I learned early in my classes, communication is about the other person, and you must understand where they are coming from.”
Recent Chicago-area events such as the 2022 Fourth of July parade mass shooting in Highland Park only heighten the tensions among law enforcement officials. Fishman’s training as an attorney helped relieve some of that pressure. “I assured my neighbor that I would help him address the legal issues that led to and arose from the situation,” he says.
After speaking with Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogman, Fishman told the neighbor that he could guarantee his safety. “I told him that when he came out, the chief and I would personally be there to greet him.”
Which is exactly what happened. “The police treated him like a troubled homeowner—a valued member of the community, not a criminal—and he received the appropriate care,” Fishman recalls.
Highland Park eventually awarded Fishman a Citizen Citation for Meritorious Service, but he sees his action as “simply the decent thing to do.”
“I was just being a good neighbor, albeit under highly unusual circumstances,” Fishman says.