Imagine yourself off duty, standing at the counter of your favorite pizza place, waiting to pick up a pizza for your family. Suddenly four armed thugs burst through the door, while shouting threats and promises of their deadly intentions. You raise your hands instinctively, but not too high, while your mind processes your options. You start scanning the suspects in hopes to remember them later, planning on becoming a good witness. After all there are four of them and one of you.
In a second everything changes — a struggle ensues in front of you. Tired of robberies, this small business owner has decided to arm himself and now there is a struggle over his weapon. What would you do?
This very situation happened to Deputy Frank Pobjecky of the Winnebago County Sheriff, whose actions in this deadly situation fit comfortably within the category of “Damned Heroic.”
Pobjecky — seeing that all four suspects presented a deadly threat to the owner of the restaurant, the patrons and himself — “filled his hand” and opened fire. Thanks to his courageous and decisive actions as well as excellent shot placement, the situation was diffused and the only persons needing transport for gunshot wounds were the suspects.
Grand Jury Rules
Sheriff Dick Meyers of Winnebago County announced that the administrative review of the shooting has been completed and determined that Deputy Pobjecky, “acted properly and in accordance with police training.” Sheriff Meyers continued, “It is important to recognize that Deputy Pobjecky was injected into a situation created by four armed robbery suspects who were carrying out a violent forcible felony while armed with a weapon.” Meyers also added this perspective: “This was a real-time, dynamic situation in which Deputy Pobjecky was in fear of his life and the lives of others in the business at the time of this robbery.”
Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato announced that the Grand Jury convened in the manner also ruled the shooting was justified. Bruscato reported that the Grand Jury indicted Brandon Lewis Sago, 22, Lamar Okeita Coates, 23, as well as Desmond Lamar Bellmon, 23, on more than 30 counts of first-degree felony murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, mob action and attempted armed robbery. All three suspects are expected to recover from their wounds to face these charges.
A 16-year-old armed robber, Michael Sago Jr. did not survive the robbery attempt inside Marie’s Pizza. Some believe his case will be convened in a higher venue.
Regarding Officer Pobjecky’s actions, Bruscato said, “I find the actions of Deputy Frank Pobjecky were in compliance with the laws of the state of Illinois and the discharge of a firearm by him that struck the three defendants as well as Michael Sago fatally was justified under Illinois law.”
The owner of Marie’s Pizza located at 1513 Charles in Rockford, Illinois, Vincenzo Tarara, was found to be legally in possession of the weapon he was carrying at the time of the robbery. No charges will be filed in that matter either.
Deputy Frank Pobjecky is cleared to return to duty.
Be Prepared Off Duty
Deputy Frank Pobjecky discovered “off duty” is relative term for Frank’s most desperate moments as a law enforcement officer took place off-duty and a pizza parlor would be unlikely location of his most significant battlefield.
Deputy Frank Pobjecky found himself off duty, alone, outgunned and outnumbered, while people he was sworn to protect were in grave danger. He did what many couldn’t do and some others wouldn’t do. Frank took a heroic stand and won.
Deputy Frank Pobjecky, all of us at PoliceOne salute you!
For the rest of you out there, remember the lesson here. Sometimes you find the battle and other times the battle finds you. Remember: Prepare and you will be prepared!
Stay safe, stay strong, stay positive!