HOUSTON – Fellow lawmen were fighting Monday to help a Rice University police officer get his job back after he was fired for responding to an off-campus "officer down" call.
Officer David Sedmak’s trouble began when he heard a radio call on May 7 about a shooting at a downtown Houston Greyhound station.
After learning that an officer had been shot, Sedmak left the campus – two minutes away from the scene – and rushed to the scene to help.
Two HPD officers were wounded by the gunman outside the Greyhound station. Other officers took cover behind the Rice officer’s car, so they wouldn’t get shot, too.
But while those officers said Sedmak was a hero, Rice University fired him for dereliction of duty.
Rice, a private university, doesn’t have to answer to a police officers’ union. But those officers made their case anyway in a press conference Monday morning.
"We think he should be commended for this, and definitely not terminated," Officer Ray Hunt said.
The Houston Police Officers Union and several other law enforcement agencies showed up in support of Sedmak and even gave him a $2,500 check to help pay his mortgage.
"David Sedmak is a hero for what he did. Going to the aid of a fellow officer – two fellow officers. And for him to be treated by Rice University the way that he has is unconscionable," Kevin Lawrence of the Texas Municipal Police Association said.
Sedmak, a former Galveston police officer, took the job at Rice three years ago so his kids would have a chance to go there for college.
"Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe that after being in law enforcement for nearly 17 years, I was being relieved of my duty for running to assist another officer," Sedmak said.
After the press conference, Rice University issued a statement similar to what they’ve said before about the incident.
The university said Sedmak left his post when only two other officers were on duty and failed to notify his supervisor of his whereabouts for nearly an hour.
Rice said his absence could have put students or the campus in danger.
University officials said their police officers frequently assist other agencies in areas near the campus, but on a case-by-case basis.
They said Rice officers have responded to calls for help from external agencies 37 times so far in 2011.
"In all instances, Rice officers are required to promptly notify the RUPD dispatcher of their location and the situation, and they have portable radios and mobile radios in their police vehicles for that purpose. All radio transmissions are recorded, logged and monitored by the Rice police sergeant on duty. This enables the sergeant to monitor the situation to ensure that the officer is safe when responding to calls off campus, and also to ensure that enough officers are on duty on campus to protect the safety of our students and employees," the Rice statement read.
Sedmak said he alerted his supervisors by radio.
Either way, he wants his job back.