INDIANAPOLIS – They remembered his heroism. They remembered his courage as an officer and dedication as a father. They remembered his smile.
Mourners gathered inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse Thursday to pay tribute to fallen Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer Rod Bradway, 41.
“Today as we mourn the loss of a truly fine police officer, the city is grateful for his sacrifice. We know that we should also honor his memory and celebrate his devotion and dedication to life,” said IMPD Chaplain Phil Bacon.
After opening the service, Bacon quoted scripture before handing the ceremony to the Decatur Central High School marching band. Bradway’s children play with the band; his son Jonathan plays the saxophone and his daughter Sierra plays the mellophone.
“Music is part of the Bradway family,” Bacon said.
Gov. Mike Pence spoke next, thanking members of the law enforcement community for their service and recognizing Bradway’s family.
“Words fail when heroes fall,” Pence said. “In times like these, words can never give proper voice to our sorrow. Our gratitude, our respect. And still we must try.”
“Courage is not found in words. It is found in deeds. Not in what we say, but in moments of trial. Courage is revealed in what we do. Officer Rod Bradway showed courage in what he did. In the finest tradition of his calling, without regard for personal safety, he risked his life to save another, to answer a cry for help. Without hesitation, he acted. He rescued. And he showed no greater love. For no greater love has a man than this.
“This city, this state, owes a debt of honor to Officer Rod Bradway and his family that we will never fully repay. He was one of us and he was the best of us.”
Pence spoke directly to Bradway’s family.
“We cannot ease your pain, but we can stand with you and pray that the Lord himself might be a special comfort to each of you in your time of bereavement and loss. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and that will be our prayer to you,” Pence said.
The governor placed the flag briefly on Bradway’s coffin and presented it to the Bradway family. He embraced Jamie Bradway, the officer’s widow, and his two children, pausing briefly at the flag-draped casket before sitting back down.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Bradway faced a split-second decision when he kicked the door down to an apartment to rescue a woman and her child.
“Most people go their whole life wondering whether they made a difference,” Ballard said. “Police officers don’t have that problem. Once the training is complete and the uniform is on, they have made that difference by standing up for a civil society, pledging to defend all of us against those who want to harm that civil society.”
Ballard continued, “We honor Officer Bradway and his family for the sacrifices they have made for all of us. No one in this city will ever wonder whether Officer Bradway made a difference. We will mourn his loss.”
Public Safety Director Troy Riggs thanked officers from other districts and cities for supporting Bradway, his family and IMPD.
“He gained the respect of his fellow officers, his command staff, and the citizens he served every day,” Riggs said.
Riggs recalled that Bradway was scheduled to referee a soccer game for Riggs’ son Monday night.
“He served his community on and off duty, and he served it with distinction. (He’s the) type every young officer should try to emulate,” Riggs said.
The public safety director told Bradway’s family that the city had lost one of its finest and would remember them.
“On behalf of the 3,200 members of the Department of Public Safety, you are part of our family. We never forget family. We can’t replace Rod, but we want to be there for the special occasions and do whatever we can to support you,” Riggs said.
IMPD Chief Rick Hite commented on the love he’s felt from the community as his department deals with the officer’s loss.
“Rod would be so proud,” Hite said of the way the city has come together.
“Rod heard a cry for help and answered the call. He kicked down the door to save a mother and child in desperate need of rescue and refuge,” Hite said.
But that single action, according to Hite, meant something greater.
“He symbolically kicked down the door of anger. He kicked down the door of hatred. He kicked down the door of pain. He kicked down the door of fear. He kicked down the door of despair. At the same time, Rod opened the door to peace. He opened the door to life. He opened the door to trust. He opened the door to honor. He opened to door to love. And he opened the door to legacy. This magnificent act of bravery and kindness allows a mother to raise a child,” Hite said.
Hite echoed Riggs’ sentiment that the Bradway family would forever be embraced by the IMPD family.
“We thank God for Rod today. We thank God for his family and the sea of humanity here to honor him,” Hite said.
The chief admitted it’s been a tough week for the department, and recognized Officer Tim Day, who died Wednesday night from a heart attack.
Nappanee Mayor Larry Thompson recalled Bradway’s younger days in Nappanee, the northern Indiana community where Bradway grew up. He was a star athlete there.
“I’m gonna go back to his hometown and bring you up to where we are today,” Thompson said.
“Nappannee is generally a quiet place except for Friday night…Panther football. The Bradway boys were always a part of it,” he said. Thompson recalled a football game in which Bradway kicked a long field goal to defeat rival Warsaw.
“Back home in Nappanee, we will never forget Rod Bradway,” he said.
Thompson shared a saying he remembered from a service for another fallen officer.
“To get yourself killed as a police officer, you don’t have to be a rogue cop. You don’t have to antagonize anybody. You don’t have to pit yourself against some big league crook. All you have to do is stumble into somebody’s madness,” Thompson said.
“Please remember, Rod’s spirit rides with you every day as you protect us from this madness. May the very thought of Rod Bradway’s spirit return you home safely every day.”
Lance Newton, youth minister at West Newton United Methodist Church, remembered Bradway for his dedication to family.
“Through Jonathan and Sierra, this strength, this character continues and has been made solid by Officer’s Bradway’s role as dad,” Newton said, adding, “We love you guys.”
Rick Kassel—Bradway’s friend and IMPD staff chaplain—described Bradway as a prankster who was quick to smile and laugh. He shared stories from Bradway’s family and read letters.
“Rod loved his family, his friends, and his pets. He loved his extended family in law enforcement. He loved his profession. He loved sports. He loved laughing. He loved taking care of his family,” Kassel said.
In one of his many anecdotes about the officer, Kassel said police classmates knew there were three ways to do things: “the right way, the wrong way and the Bradway.”
“He was not without his faults like all of us. He was a good man. We will indeed miss him on the streets. We’ll keep him in our hearts and minds,” Kassel said.
“Public safety is more than just a job. It is not a job. It is a calling.”
Kassel urged fellow officers to seek help in the darkest times of their careers.
“Please do not stuff your pain. Seek out one another or a professional to help you deal with your grief and emotions,” Kassel said. “Be good to yourself and get the help that you need.”
Kassel said Bradway would live on through his children, and hoped they would one day share stories about their father with children of their own.
“He’s already gone to be with the Father. He’s already in God’s care. Celebrate your family. Love your family. Celebrate the memories by telling the stories.”
In addition to performances from the Decatur Central High School marching band, the service included music from Greenwood Police Officer Bryan Wolfe (“Amazing Grace” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”), Katrien Vanderback (“Heaven Was Needing a Hero”) and Merrilville Police Department officer Nate Schrock.