Richard C. Sebek, a Brookfield police officer who was seriously wounded by a gunshot in the line of duty in 1986 but survived to enjoy a 30-year career with the village, died Feb. 26, 2021 at the age of 76.
Mr. Sebek started with the Brookfield Police Department in 1976 as a dispatcher. He was sworn in as a patrolman two years later and would remain a member of the force until he retired in June 2008.
He lived for many years in Brookfield with his wife, Mary, raising a family before moving later to Indian Head Park. In retirement, Mr. Sebek spent some time working for the Brookfield Zoo police.
“For those that did not know Richie, he was someone that everyone admired,” said Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak, who joined the force in 1990 and as a young officer worked alongside Mr. Sebek. “He was always kind and a good-hearted, special person.”
Mr. Sebek was seriously wounded in the line of duty shortly after midnight on March 16, 1986 after responding to a shooting at a wedding reception at the Sokol hall on Prairie Avenue. The suspect had shot and wounded a man outside the hall in the parking lot and fled back inside the building, where Mr. Sebek and another officer tried to take him into custody.
As the officers attempted to take him down, the suspect fired three times inside the room where some 300 people were gathered. One round hit the ceiling, one hit Mr. Sebek in both legs and the third killed a 17-year-old girl who was a guest at the wedding.
In a 2004 interview with the Landmark, Mr. Sebek said it took two months to recover from his injuries.
“Luckily, it hit the fleshy parts of my legs,” Mr. Sebek said. “It was bad enough, but it could have been worse.”
Mr. Sebek was also an avid and well-regarded expert in the Japanese martial art known as aikido. He told the Landmark he took up aikido in 1979 and used its arm locks and holds as an alternative to fighting with suspects who resisted arrest.
“I started doing the exercises in order to be able to control people,” he said. “When you have to make an arrest, you naturally don’t want to beat people up. That’s not a good thing. With arm locks, it provided a more humane way to take people into custody.”
Mr. Sebek taught aikido to other Brookfield police officers and also taught the martial art at Powell’s Way of Kenpo, long located in a downtown Brookfield storefront on Grand Boulevard.
“One of the things with aikido is that as you learn you also teach,” Mr. Sebek told the Landmark. “If there is somebody lower than you, you teach them. So, I was teaching almost right from the beginning.”
In 2004, he was inducted into the United States Martial Arts Association International Hall of Fame as a distinguished instructor.
Mr. Sebek was the husband of the late Mary; the father of Rhonda (David) Bonbrake and Renee Sebek; the grandfather of Kyle (Kristen) Lovett, Richard (fiancé Sommer) Lovett and Alan Ingram; the great grandpa of Xavier Bermudez; and the brother of the late Alice Blaine.
Visitation is Tuesday, March 2 from 3 p.m. until time of services at 7 p.m. at Ivins/Moravecek Funeral Home, 80 E. Burlington St., Riverside.