Turning Around Casualties in the Nick of Time

On a Friday evening in January 2023, Oak Park officers received a dispatch call that deployed them to the local high school. The message alerted officers to reports of a man with a gun within the school grounds. The incident occurred during the closing moments of a highly attended basketball game – the gym was packed due to the turnout of students, parents, and teaching staff.

At the time, dispatch reported shots fired, with at least one victim injured within the school premises. Officers at the scene observed the game attendees running frantically in all directions while vehicles from the school grounds moved en masse to the nearby Oak Park Police Station.

Oak Park PSOA's Michael Hodakoski | Police Officer of the Year Awards - May 2023 | POAM
POAM Legislative Director Kenneth E. Grabowski, Oak Park PSOA’s Officer Michael Hodakoski, and POAM Business Agent Kevin Loftis.

Witnesses began to share partial information as Hodakoski’s fellow officers checked on the injured victim. The witnesses believed two suspects escaped westbound through the parking lot. 

Officer Hodakoski responded without delay, rushing to the scene with his K9 partner, Mace. The duo headed straight to the westbound parking lot, and Hodakoski assessed the suspects’ possible escape routes. At that point, witnesses saw the two suspects changing directions, cutting through the parking lot, and advancing towards the soccer field. 

Acting on Instincts and Experience

Being familiar with the area, Officer Hodakoski expected the suspects’ route to lead them to a nearby street eventually. He immediately got into his service vehicle and headed to the nearby street, hoping to intercept the escapees.

Upon arriving on the street, Officer Hodakoski noticed the two suspects walking in his direction. Cautiously, he exited his vehicle and made contact alone with the pair without backup as the other officers investigated and provided medical assistance at the shooting scene. 

When Officer Hodakoski questioned the two individuals, they shared that they had attended the basketball game and escaped during the shooting. However, Officer Hodakoskii’s situation assessment did not tally with the account. He also noticed suspicious body language from the suspect standing further away, who had both hands in his pocket.

Officer Hodakoski advised that he would perform a weapon search on them, starting with the suspect standing closer to him. While he searched, he noticed a sudden change in the expression of the other suspect.

Seconds Away from Danger

Through field experience, Officer Hodakoski immediately diverted his attention to the second suspect upon completing the inspection. He seized the suspect’s right arm, prompting the suspect to pull away while keeping his left arm inside his pocket. 

Officer Hodakoski ordered the man to reveal his right hand, but he resisted and continued to pull away. He quickly reacted by restraining the suspect to the ground. The impact to the ground flung the weapon, a black semi-automatic handgun, from the suspect’s pocket. While he secured the weapon and kept the initial suspect on the ground, the other suspect started retreating despite Officer Hodakoski ordering him to stop. As the suspect headed southward, he called for backup, who arrived promptly, transporting the currently restrained suspect to the station. The other suspect fled on foot.

With the initial subject in the custody of other officers, Officer Hodakoski began to set up a perimeter in pursuit of the fleeing suspect. Officers from the Southern perimeter soon responded with a suspect matching the description of the missing suspect. Officer Hodakoski immediately drove to the location and found the suspect refusing to comply with officers despite being on his knees. Using the same quick thinking demonstrated in the first arrest, he tactfully restrained this suspect, allowing officers to bring the defiant suspect into custody.

A Seasoned Officer Dedicated to Peace and Justice

The recent case is a testament to Officer Hodakoski’s invaluable contributions as a positive role model to his peers and members of the public. Officer Hodakoski has been in the police force for almost 23 years, having served 21 years with Oak Park Police and 2 years in the Detroit Police Department. 

He’s also Oak Park’s first and only K9 officer and continues to safeguard community members with vigilance and quick thinking shown in this indecent that occurred earlier this year.

In his off-duty hours, Officer Hodakoski spends quality time on his two teenage children, inspiring them to be their best versions.  

The Police Officers Association of Michigan recognizes and rewards outstanding members of the force who go the extra mile to protect their community. For your exceptional courage and resolve while safely apprehending two dangerous suspects to protect the greater community, the Police Officers Association of Michigan presents you, Michael Hodakoski, with the 2023 Police Officer of The Year Award.

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