As I watched retired Topeka police Maj. Mike Padilla be sworn in Monday as a member of the Topeka City Council, my thoughts went back to the day he shouted a warning that saved me from serious injury, and potentially death.
It was Sept. 24, 1991. I was covering the police beat for The Capital-Journal and Padilla was a lieutenant with the police department.
I headed out from the newsroom just before 10 p.m. to cover a fatal shooting, which was later ruled a justifiable homicide, in southeast Topeka’s Hi-Crest community.
En route, I learned over my police radio scanner that police had stopped a car driven by the shooter in the 2900 block of S.E. Adams. I went there.
Though no barricades were in place, officers clearly weren’t letting cars drive through that block.
I parked nearby and — feeling reasonably safe — stood in the street in the dark, watching intently as police searched a grassy area just east of S.E. Adams, where they would subsequently find two pistols.
Suddenly, someone shouted “Tim!”
It was Padilla, standing to my northwest.
I glanced his way and saw a fast-moving car coming at me from the north.
I quickly leaped out of the way, feeling the wind from the car as it went past.
The car continued south. I never saw it again.
I was told the driver appeared to be a teenaged girl, and must not have realized the area was a crime scene.
Anyhow, I thanked Padilla for warning me.
I continued to write about him from time to time after that, until he retired from the police department in 2003 to take a job with Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control.
I left the police beat the following year for a Capital-Journal position covering local government, which I still hold.
That means I’ll be covering Padilla as he takes part in the weekly meetings in the city council chambers.
At least I won’t have to worry about any cars hitting me there.
Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.