We tend to think of Columbus as a small and safe community, and for the most part, it lives up to that. Still, the community undoubtedly was shook and reminded last June that bad things can happen anywhere when Columbus Police Sgt. Bradley Wangler was shot while executing a search warrant.
On Thursday, the Wanglers and community as a whole were provided closure when Jorge Robledo was sentenced in Platte County District Court to a minimum of 44 years in prison on a slew of charges for opening fire on Wangler and striking him several times.
But it also served as a reminder of just how fortunate we are to have Wangler not only as a member of our local police force, but as a member of our community. His actions are yet another example of what it means to be a model citizen and something we can all learn from.
“Obviously, God has a plan for both of us – myself and Robledo,” Wangler told The Telegram following court proceedings. “He made some comments about forgiveness, and ironically I have forgiven him a long time ago. God has a plan for him, and we hope that he turns into a model inmate and that he can turn his life around and become that inmate that can help correct others.
“Even from behind the fence he has a chance to influence on a positive aspect if he so chooses.”
We hope so, but Wangler’s outlook on Robledo was not what most people probably would have thought it to be. Remember, this all happened when he and another officer responded to a home in town in reference to Robledo having an active Hall County warrant. In what has since been described in court as an “ambush,” Robledo used a Luger handgun and assault rifle to open fire at Wangler.
He could have killed Wangler. He could have killed the other officer on scene.
Knowing that, it would be understandable of Wangler would never forgive Robledo and continue to be angry.
Yet, he’s not letting this incident define him or his life.
He’s an assistant baseball coach, Cub Scouts leader, father, husband, police sergeant, good-natured human being – those are the things he’s made apparent he cares about. Perhaps that’s why the 20-year veteran of the Columbus Police Department has been recognized by various organizations in the last eight months, including the Police Officers' Association of Nebraska recognizing him as Police Officer of the Year in 2018, as previously reported by The Telegram.
Wangler will never be defined by being shot in the line of duty, but rather how he responded to it. It’s a lot easier to think you can forgive and move on when faced with adversity than it is to actually be able to do it when it happens. We’re thankful Sgt. Wangler has recovered and is back at work, and appreciate the great example he has provided our community as to how to live life.
That’s what makes him a hero.