INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis police officer honored last year for his bravery was shot and killed early Friday when he was ambushed by a gunman after kicking in an apartment door in response to a woman’s screams for help, police said.
Officer Rod Bradway had been talking for several minutes to the man, who had held the woman hostage for three hours and was hiding behind the door as the officer entered, Detective Thomas Lehn said.
“He made it past the door and then he got ambushed. … Once he passes that door, he gets shot, and that first shot is a fatal wound,” he said, noting Bradway had little time to react.
The 41-year-old officer was hit in the upper torso in an area not covered by his bulletproof vest, Lehn said, and was pronounced dead at an Indianapolis hospital.
Police said Bradway returned fire, striking the suspect before he fell to the floor.
A second officer rushed toward the door of the second-floor apartment on the city’s northwest side and exchanged about 15 shots with the alleged gunman, who was killed and later identified by the Marion County Coroner’s Office as 24-year-old Steven Byrdo.
Neither the woman, an ex-girlfriend of Byrdo, nor her 11-month-old child were injured in the incident, Lehn said.
Indiana Department of Correction records show Byrdo had felony drug convictions in 2011 and 2013 and had been released from prison in June after serving a cocaine-dealing conviction sentence.
Bradway, who was married with a teenage son and daughter, was a five-year veteran of the department and a native of the northern Indiana town of Nappanee.
Police Chief Rick Hite asked the public to pray for Bradway’s family.
“He entered an apartment to save the life of a woman who was being assaulted and in turn gave his life,” Hite said. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Bradway was a highly decorated officer who had received its Medal of Bravery in February 2012.
Bill Owensby, the president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, said Bradway was honored for apprehending a deranged, knife-wielding man who was threatening others.
Bradway and his wife also traveled to Moore, Okla., following May’s deadly tornado to deliver hundreds of pounds of dog and cat food, pet crates, leashes and other supplies they collected for pets displaced or found wandering in the storm’s aftermath, Owensby said.
“We’ve already heard from Oklahoma offering their sympathies because they remembered what he did,” he said.
Bradway’s police cruiser, adorned with flowers, was placed outside a police district office hours after squad cars escorted a vehicle carrying his body from the hospital to the coroner’s office.
The shooting prompted Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to cut short a trip to Germany for a business summit. The mayor said in a statement that Bradway “gave his life protecting the people of our community by charging ahead to confront the unknown.”
Bradway is the first Indianapolis police officer killed in the line of duty since January 2011, when Officer David Moore died after being shot during a traffic stop.
Bradway played football and was on the track team at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, about 20 miles southeast of South Bend, graduating in 1991.
Jon Andrews, who knew Bradway while coaching at NorthWood, recalled him as gregarious and athletic.
“Always had a smile on his face. Always concerned about others,” Andrews told The Elkhart Truth. “I think he loved people and loved athletics, and both of those showed up in the way he built his life.”
Associated Press writer Tom Davies contributed to this report.