A Chicago Ridge assistant fire chief charged in a violent home invasion and attempted rape was free on bond Monday. But he was barred from returning to the Tinley Park condo building where he and the alleged victim were neighbors. The lights were dim Monday night inside the second-floor unit where firefighter Gary Swiercz lives, and the condo where the alleged victim lives. Neighbors said the woman had not returned after police swarmed the neighborhood before dawn Sunday.
Swiercz, 49, was arrested in the condo complex's parking lot about 2:30 a.m. after authorities said he broke into his sleeping neighbor's unit wearing a ski mask and held a knife to her throat, then battered her as she struggled to get away.
Swiercz, who was charged with attempted murder, home invasion, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated attempted criminal sexual assault and residential burglary, was released on $150,000 bond and is wearing an electronic monitoring device. Sheriff's police dropped him off at his parents' home in Worth. Eve Maali, who lives two buildings down from Swiercz in Tinley Park, expressed relief.
"He's not staying here at least," said Maali, who lives with her parents. "I think if they have enough evidence to charge him with something like that, how could he have made bail?"
Maali said she recognized Swiercz's picture on TV, and she recalled that he had borrowed a ladder from her father several years ago so he could climb onto his patio after locking himself out of his apartment.
"My dad said he seemed like a pretty nice guy," she said.
Swiercz's attorney, Colleen McSweeney Moore, called the incident "out of character" for the deputy fire chief. She speculated in court Sunday that a medication error could have played a role, but she did not elaborate outside court.
Officials in Chicago Ridge, where Swiercz had worked as a firefighter for more than 20 years, said they were shocked. Swiercz, who was promoted to deputy chief about five years ago, was a decorated veteran and was active in the Toys for Tots program, his lawyer said in bond court Sunday. Swiercz was placed on administrative leave Monday.
At the bond hearing Sunday, prosecutors said Swiercz broke into the apartment, carrying a 3-inch folding knife, a roll of duct tape, a sex toy and lubricant.
Swiercz allegedly held his hand over the sleeping woman's mouth while holding the knife to her throat, prosecutors said. He held her hands together and forced her into the kitchen, where he threw her to the floor and slammed her into the floor multiple times before fleeing through the back of the home, prosecutors said.
The victim suffered a swollen lip and had a knot on the back of her head, and was treated at the scene for minor injuries, police said.
Witnesses told police they saw Swiercz throwing something into a garbage bin before police arrived and arrested him.
No one came to the door at Swiercz's parents' home Monday.
Written by Chicago Tribune