On a night near the end of Timothy Stecker’s career, the Oregon police officer leaned forward in his vehicle to shine the spotlight on a suspect.
A rifle slug in those moments buzzed inches behind his neck.
“I probably wouldn’t have said this as a young officer, but gratefully so, the exciting times are not all they’re cracked up to be,” Mr. Stecker, 57, said.
Mr. Stecker retired Feb. 28 after 33 years at the police department — 28 of those on midnight shift. The position was one of helping others, including residents unable to reach anyone else after hours.
He has jump-started cars, lit water heaters, calmed barking dogs, and closed many garage doors as residents slept — in contrast with Toledo, where calls for service on a busy night can inundate police, Mr. Stecker said.
“We have the privilege in the suburbs, more specifically Oregon, to have much more personal service with the people that live here or even just pass through,” he said.
Mr. Stecker, who grew up in East Toledo, described himself as “not your traditional copper.” He has practiced both meditation and martial arts for years, and loves classical music.
The patience from meditation allows a better understanding of those who lose perspective. Police are tasked with finding a solution to someone’s problem, he said.
“We have an arguably more peaceful city at this time, but when it comes to violence, the violence seems much more extreme than it was when I was a young officer,” Mr. Stecker said.
On Dec. 18, 2015, Mr. Stecker and several officers were called after an Oregon bar fight. The group then left the area for a nearby Northwood neighborhood.
He approached and shined a light on one of the men, Kenneth Maldonado, 27. Gunman Jack Welninski, hiding 33 feet away behind a parked car, then fired his sawed-off shotgun at Mr. Stecker.
Mr. Stecker returned fire and helped detain them. He credited divine intervention and his training for safely leaving the scene.
A jury later convicted Welninski, 31, in Wood County Common Pleas Court on charges including attempted murder and felonious assault. He is serving a 97-year prison term.
Oregon police Chief Mike Navarre praised the retiring officer for his impressive service and respect from colleagues. Mr. Stecker was a strong role model for younger officers, he said.
“You hate to lose that kind of experience, and that kind of a person,” Chief Navarre said.
Throughout the past 30 years, Mr. Stecker also served as a part-time teacher in law-enforcement training at Owens Community College, Four County Career Center, and Northwest State Community College.
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