It happens all the time.  A tragedy strikes, a monster is on the loose, people are in danger, and then a lone person stands in the gap and fills the shoes we call HERO.  After the act of heroism, people ask, “How could you do that?  Weren’t you scared?”  Most often the reply is humble and self-deprecating.  “I just did what I had to.” or, “There’s nothing special about me; I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Sorry, lots of people are in the right place at the right time, but fail to act.  What makes the difference is an attitude, a moral compass, a raison d’être that differs from most of us.  Heroes have learned, “It’s not about me.”  Most people we meet instead focus their attention almost exclusively on one person out of 7 billion… themselves.

In contrast, consider Brett Goldstein of Chicago.  Most of us would be quite satisfied to find ourselves as an executive at OpenTable (, a restaurant reservation service subscribed to by 30,000 businesses.  Instead, Goldstein joined the police academy at the age of 31 because he wanted to share his computer knowledge with law enforcement in a post-9/11 world.  Goldstein graduated from the academy first in his class, competing against peers a decade younger than he.

Officer Goldstein had his choice of districts and chose Harrison, the most violent, because he wanted to make a difference.

Heroism never takes a day off.

On a hot afternoon in July 2009, Brett Goldstein was enjoying a day off with his wife and small toddler, driving in Pilsen on Chicago’s lower-west side.  Slowing down for a red traffic light, Goldstein witnessed a gang-banger by the name of Marcelino Sauseda murder 19 year-old Jeff Maldonado Jr. with a 9mm pistol.

Wearing Birkenstock sandals, Goldstein shouted, “SHOTS FIRED!” in front of his startled wife, exited his car and out-ran Sauseda, making the arrest without losing sight of the suspect.  He did so without hesitation, without backup, and with only his off-duty weapon at his disposal.

The victim’s parents know Brett Goldstein is a hero.  Following Sauseda’s recent guilty verdict, Jeff Maldonado, Sr. hugged him in gratitude.  The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the family is grateful because many parents in their position do not have closure because the killer is not caught and held to account.

You might expect Brett Goldstein to reflect on the incident with a smile of accomplishment.  He doesn’t.  Goldstein regrets not being able to save the victim. But why?

Such is a natural reaction for those who place service above self, who consider others worthy of consideration before considering themselves.

Such is the stuff of heroes.

Brett Goldstein went on to help CPD design a system of predictive crime analytics, after which Mayor Rahm Emmanuel picked him as chief data officer.  Since then, Brett Goldstein has returned to the business community in the financial services sector.

Bruce Bremer, MBA is LET’s technology contributor. Bruce retired from the Submarine Service after 21 years of in-depth experience with complex electronic technology. Since then, he has been involved in fleet modernization and military research analysis. He teaches electronics and alternative energy at a Virginia college. Besides his MBA, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer networking. He has been volunteering in public safety for many years.

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