TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s clear from the minute you meet Charles Kondek, Sr., he loves his son and misses him dearly.
“I tell him, ‘I’m sorry that things had to be the way they were,'” Kondek, Sr. told News Channel 8.
The grief is raw and fresh for this grieving father who lost his son, a veteran Tarpon Springs police officer. “Charlie K,” as he was known in the community, was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 21, 2014, while out on a call during an overnight shift.
It is a night this father will never forget, and each week he has a recurring dream where he’s helpless and watching his son slip away. “I have dreams of him bleeding out. I picture him shot, by himself, laying there. Bleeding out, and nobody’s helping him. And, it’s brutal, you know. I I wake up and I go back to the same dream,” Kondek, Sr. said.
For the elder Kondek, that fateful night feels like it was yesterday. When he aches to see his son again, he visits the cemetery where he sits near the grave site. With tears streaming down his face, the dad talked with News Channel 8. “I talk to him, and I have him for me, all I want now. He just doesn’t talk back to me,” he said.
As Kondek, Sr. looks back on those final moments in the emergency room where his son’s body lay lifeless on a gurney, he remembers wanting to hold him, to hold his hand. But, he was not allowed to embrace him.
Kondek, Sr., a former New York Police Department officer, recalls a nurse who shared a personal story. “She told me, ‘Your son used to bring me coffee for five years. Every Saturday night, we had coffee together … I tried to save your son … I couldn’t do it,'” he said.
Recent tragedies from around the country involving violence against police officers break the heart of Charles Kondek, Sr. Every time he hears about a member of lawenforcement dying in the line of duty, he says, a piece of his own heart dies. He has one word for those who take the lives of officers. “Animals,” he said. “Animals that do this that don’t respect, come up from behind and shoot. To come up from behind and assassinate them like that? Cowards”
When asked what advice he would offer to the heartbroken families of fallen officers, Kondek, Sr. said, “Find a support group, and try not to be alone too much. You should talk about it. Enjoy the memories that you had in the past, the good times.”
Kondek, Sr. maintains that comfort and solace can be found amidst others who are hurting. In fact, he is currently in a group with Cindy Roberts, the wife of slain Tampa Police officer Mike Roberts.”It helps to be with people, stay busy and talk about the good times,” Kondek, Sr. said.