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Metro awards 42 officers at annual Best of the Badge gala

Updated July 9, 2017 - 7:17 pm

In early September, a Las Vegas-area pastor received a distressing text message from his son: he’d been kidnapped for ransom at a south central apartment complex.

Metropolitan Police Department detective Stephen Balonek was on the case.

He drove to the pastor’s home for more information, but didn’t know what to expect.

“We were kind of putting our heads together on how to deal with it, because we knew what apartment complex it was in, we just didn’t know the apartment,” said Balonek, who joined the Police Department in 1999.

But the situation became dire when the victim texted his father a photograph of his bleeding face. Balonek contacted his commanding sergeant, called in a SWAT team and sped to the scene.

Balonek parked outside the complex on East Flamingo Road and Swenson Street near the UNLV campus and planned to stay in his car until backup arrived. Then he saw two men chasing another man and holding what looked like a knife up to his neck.

“So I jumped out,” he said.

Balonek ran after the three, closing in on them until he was close enough to order them to the ground. He grabbed his cellphone and called his boss — somewhere along the chase, Balonek lost his radio.

Ten months later, Balonek was honored during Metro’s annual Best of the Badge awards gala at Red Rock Resort in Summerlin. During the Friday night gala, the department presented Balonek with a Medal of Honor for his actions that the victim said saved his life.

Along with Balonek, 41 other Metro officers, sergeants and lieutenants received awards for going above and beyond in the last year. They were recognized for courage and bravery under dangerous circumstances in eight other incidents.

Balonek was shy to admit heroism Friday. At first, he did even tell his wife, Robyn, a civilian with the department. She said she learned about the award from a friend.

All in a day’s work, Balonek said. His wife — and department leaders — feel otherwise.

“It’s not just doing your job, it’s more than that,” she said. “He’s empathetic for everybody he comes into contact with. He just cares.”

Since the incident, Balonek has communicated with the victim’s father, who said his son is working to overcome the traumatic stress from the attack.

“I’m a dad, too, so, you know, if it was my son, I’d want somebody to do the same thing,” Balonek said.

Balonek was set to receive a lesser award Friday, but Sgt. Jeff Clark advocated for his colleague.

“It’s always something that’s a source of pride for us, to see these officers getting the recognition they deserve in front of their family, their friends, their coworkers and leaders in the community,” Clark said.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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