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Source: Nelson County Time, Virginia
September 21, 2012
Shipman man gets '12 Valor Award
Buckingham County patrol sergeant saved partner’s life last year
When a black and silver pistol appeared during a call last September, a Nelson County man didn’t hesitate to react, pushing his partner out of the way and helping a family of seven in Buckingham County.
This bravery made Steve Bodek, a patrol sergeant for Buckingham County, the 2012 Valor Award recipient last Tuesday. The Valor Award is one of the highest awards presented through the Virginia Sheriffs Association. It is awarded to one law enforcement officer each year who displays heroism and bravery in the line of duty.
“I’m humbled by it,” said Bodek, 40, of Shipman. “It’s an amazing award, but I didn’t do anything special. I just did what I had to, to make sure I made it home and my partner made it home at the end of the day.”
Bodek remembers the details of that Sept. 1 evening clearly — when he shot and killed the man wielding the pistol, probably saving his partner’s life.
The call came in at 6:49 p.m. about a man with a gun. A woman told dispatchers that her brother started waving a gun around and threatening everyone while she was visiting her parents with her three children and her brother’s wife. She said he was on nerve pills, which he often takes with alcohol, and was acting like a “wild man,” according to a letter from W. G. “Billy” Kidd, the Buckingham County sheriff.
“Any call I go to, I think the worst and hope for the best,” Bodek said, adding he would never have expected the event to unfold as it did.
Bodek and Deputy Erik Bryan responded. Bryan had been off duty for about an hour but had been monitoring the radio. When Bryan heard the call, he dialed Bodek to see if he would like backup, since Bodek’s partner was working on another call in a different part of the county.
“I responded, and I eat those words to this day, ‘It won’t hurt,’” Bodek said. Bryan later joked with Bodek about their conversation, saying he lied and it did hurt.
Once they arrived, Bodek and Bryan tried to get the suspect out of the house to talk. The suspect instead backed farther into the house and shouted obscenities at them, ignoring Bodek’s orders to show his hands while reaching for the small of his back. Bodek placed the red dot of his Taser on the suspect’s chest, yelling at him to show his hands, according to the letter.
After the suspect still refused to show his hands, Bodek fired the Taser, hitting him with only one lead, making it ineffective. The subject then disappeared through the kitchen. When he peered through the door, Bryan shot and missed with his Taser.
Bodek then saw the suspect pull his gun and pushed Bryan out of the way as the suspect fired. The bullet hit Bryan’s radio, but would have hit his stomach without the push.
Bodek returned fire, hitting the subject in the chest. Bodek pushed Bryan out and ushered the remaining family members out of the house, except for the suspect’s father, who was watching a police show on TV and didn’t want to miss it, according to the letter.
The state police arrived shortly after to help. While waiting, the suspect’s wife ran back into the house and came out telling the officers they needed to help her husband but refused to throw the gun out on the porch, swearing at the cops instead. By the time the officers were able to go in after she brought the gun out, the suspect had died.
Kidd said he spoke with his officers as soon as he arrived on the scene and learned Bryan’s radio had taken the shot aimed for his stomach.
“He was very lucky,” Kidd said. “The first thing he told me was, ‘I have to tell you, Sgt. Bodek saved my life.’”
A nine-and-a-half-month investigation followed, deeming Bodek was in danger and used no more force than necessary.
“We’re trained to do what we have to do, that is take a life, but you hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said. He said he prefers to use “verbal judo” to deal with suspects.
Bodek had spoken to the suspect before during previous incidents and the two knew each other through a law enforcement capacity.
“It’s no fun or joy to take someone’s life at all,” he said. “You have to fight your own demons. You have to live with it.”
He said recently meeting with the family of the suspect helped him and lifted a weight that had been on his chest since the incident. He said they hugged him and said they understood Bodek had no other options.
Bodek found out he had received the award about three weeks before the presentation and had no idea he had been nominated. Kidd told Bodek in person, giving him a letter he had submitted as part of the nomination.
“It meant a lot coming from him,” Bodek said. “Sheriff Billy Kidd is one of the best bosses I’ve worked for in my career.”
Kidd was also the one to present the award at the banquet last week, where Virginia’s sheriffs, other law enforcement officers and congressmen were in attendance.
“It never really dawned on me how important that award was until I had the award in my hand and everyone gave me a standing ovation,” Bodek said. “I never had that before. It was kind of surreal.”
Bodek said that although he was given the award, Bryan should also be recognized.
“It’s a team effort,” Bodek said. “That’s all I can say.”
This isn’t the first award for valor he’s received. Bodek received a Purple Heart and a Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Combat “V” for valor when he was a Marine.
After the military, Bodek spent six years as a law enforcement officer at the University of Virginia before joining the Buckingham Sheriff’s Department, where he’s worked for four years.
Kidd said Bodek has been an extremely hardworking and dedicated member of the department, showing up to work early and leaving late.
“He’s the kind of guy you look for in this business,” Kidd said.
Kidd said it was unfortunate a life had to be lost but it was valiant of Bodek to go “toe to toe” with an armed suspect and push his partner out of the way.
“He’s a brave soul,” Kidd said.
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