Not long after Charlie was killed my son, Andrew, told me about his plan to become an officer. He wanted to honor his father and keep our name alive. The thought of my son out there with the way the world is right now terrifies me but the more I talked to him about it, the more determined he became. Not many understand but it's a calling. This is something they are destined to do and there is no stopping them. I'm beyond proud of him and I've been amazed at his determination. He is his father's son.
Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association Award
Andrew was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association to pay for his tuition at the PHSC Police Academy. This scholarship will cover the cost of his tuition, books, and supplies. Since the academy is full time, Andrew worked over seventy hours a week for months to save money to pay his finances for the time of the academy, so this scholarship lifted a huge financial burden for him. In Andrew's words, "I understand the integrity, honesty, and sacrifice this career will require of me.” Andrew also intends to donate back to this organization with his first paycheck as an officer.
Tomorrow my son will walk into a classroom for his first day of the police academy. Tomorrow he will begin to learn all the things his father never told him about this career. Tomorrow is the day that will change the way he looks at everything in life. I'm absolutely terrified but I am so proud of him.
I am proud because it takes a BRAVE person to answer this calling; especially in today's world. A world where he can't let his guard down to even sit and eat lunch. A world where he's a target every time he puts his uniform on. A world that could destroyhim or take him from us. A world that you and I will never see.
It takes an even stronger person to choose this career after seeing his own father make the ultimate sacrifice that ended so violently. He is stepping forward to continue our family's love of law enforcement because he didn't want our name to die too. Yep, all of that and he is SO proud to start this journey. That's why it's a calling.
I want the academy to be tough - the toughest thing he's ever done. I want him to be mentally and physically challenged so that he sees the world in a different way - the parts of the world that I kept from him as he grew up. I want this because the things he will see in his career will follow him for the rest of his life and I need him to make it home when his shift ends.
Under that handsome face is the same little boy who loved to help people and went out of his way to make people happy. The same little boy who told the truth and waited to be grounded. The same little boy who took the blame for his sisters so they wouldn't get in trouble or cry. The same little boy that made an entire room come to life.
To the community he may be just another officer. To the evil out there, he's just another target. But to me, he's my son and a big part of my heart. He's a brother to his four siblings and we need him inour life. He is a part of his father and I want him to grow old and have his own family one day.I want him to have all the things in life that was taken from his father and I.
I love you, Andrew. You are exactly what this world needs. I hope this journey gives you pride but keeps you humble; just like your father.
Third Annual Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Gala, September 2018
Not only were we honored to attend this event but to have my son recognized and given a St. Michael pendant was extremely overwhelming. We have been so supported and blessed after Charlie's death and we have so many to thank for that. I pray that Andrew has a long rewarding career and he's able to set an example and continue our love for law enforcement.
Tampa Bay Rays recognize Andrew - September, 2018
The Tampa Bay Rays recognized Andrew and his journey to become a law enforcement officer, just as his father was. We were so honored to be a part of such a special night. The accomodations and staff were amazing and we can't thank this organization enough for everything they've done to support our family.
Pasco Hernando State College Police Academy Graduation, Class 107 February 13, 2019
Watching my son today without my husband was pretty tough. I don't know if I can even explain how proud I am of my son. Andrew has a huge heart and loves to give and whenever possible just like his father. There's no doubt he will make us proud out there.
The only thing I have from my husband's uniform was a pair of handcuffs that were in evidence during trial. I got them back and had them engraved for my son so that when he gets to put on his first uniform he will have a piece of his father with him.
To the amazing friends and strangers who came to support Andrew, we will never forget you.
Thank you, inFocus Laser Cutting and Engraving (Kyle Bonnell) for engraving these cuffs on such short notice.
To the following agencies, YOU are the reason we love this blue family so much - Tarpon Springs Police Department, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Coral Springs Police Department, Team South FL, NYPD, 10-13 Club, Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Clearwater Police Department, Temple Terrace Police Department, New Port Richey Police Department, Tampa Police Department, Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, and the Florida Highway Patrol. Without all of you, we would be lost. You are the reason we are standing so tall today.
A few days after Christmas in 2014, I remember leaning into a coffin, touching my husband Charlie’s face and staring at the last uniform he was so proud to put on every duty day. I kissed him goodbye for the last time that day so seeing my son’s name on the Pasco-Hernando State College Police Academy (Florida) list was something I NEVER expected.
Not long after Charlie was violently killed in the line of duty, my son Andrew told me he wanted to become a police officer. He wanted to honor his father and all the good things he did for the community who loved him so much. Andrew wanted to keep our name alive, but the way the world is right now and the thought of my son out there - terrified me. The more he talked to me about it, the more determined and passionate he became. He took a pay cut and began the academy not long after. Not many understand that this isn’t a job, it’s a calling. There’s little money and a LOT of stress. It’s who they become on the inside and they are NEVER off duty. It’s something very few are destined to follow and there is no stopping them when it’s in their blood. After all, heishis father’s son.
On August 26, 2018 my son walked into a classroom for his first day of the police academy. Soon after, he learned all the things his father never told him about this career. I knew that after the first day of that academy, my son would look at everything in life from a new perspective. I wanted the academy to be tough—the toughest thing he’s ever done. And it was. I wanted him to be mentally and physically challenged so that he would be forced to see the world in a different way—the parts of the world that I kept from him, the parts his father protected him from. I wanted this because the things he will see from now forward will follow him for the rest of his life. The horrible things he will see will never leave his mind and I pray he finds a way to work through those days.
I’m so incredibly proud of him because it takes a BRAVE person to answer this calling, especially in today’s world. A world where officers can’t let their guard down to even sit and break bread. A world where they are a target every time they put on their uniform. A world that could destroy them or take them from us for merely exiting their car. A world that you and I will never see or fully understand.
It takes an even stronger person to choose this career after seeing his own father make the ultimate sacrifice that culminated so violently. Andrew is stepping forward to continue our family’s love of law enforcement because he didn’t want our name to die too. In his words, “I just want to finish the good things my dad did. If I can be just half the officer and man he was, that would make all of this worth it.” Yep, all of that and he is SO proud to start this journey. That’s why it’s a calling.
Behind that handsome face of his is the same little boy who loved to help people and went out of his way to make people happy. The same little boy who told the truth and waited to be grounded. The same little boy who took the blame for his sisters when they got in trouble…because he hated to see them cry. The same little boy that made an entire room come to life with his sense of humor and sarcasm. The same little boy who gave up his lunch or a turn to play so that the kid with no friends could join in.
To the community he will be just another officer. To the evil out there, he’s just another target. But to me, he’s my son and a big part of my heart. He’s a brother to his four siblings, a grandson to his Gigi, and a loyal friend to so many. He is a part of his father and I want him to grow old and have his own family one day and enjoy retirement like every officer should. I want him to have all the things in life that was taken from his father and I. I want the community to see him as help and not a threat. I want them to see him as a human being that has a huge heart and a strong drive to help without wanting anything in return, not even a simple thank you.
Hearing sirens, seeing red and blues, and passing officers on the street has always made me look twice to make sure everything was okay. But now I picture my son in their place, and that rips my heart out and makes me proud at the same time. I’ve done my best to not share my fear with my son and I will proudly stand beside him and support him just as I did his father because I know what this calling means to them. I don’t know why Charlie’s life had to end so violently but I pray my son is able to pick up the broken pieces and carry his father with him when he walks out the door to serve. It’s his only mission in life now and we could sure use more men out there like him.
On his academy graduation day, the only thing I had left to pass down to my son was his father’s handcuffs. Charlie was wearing them the night he was killed. I had them engraved and handed them to him at graduation. It’s a small piece of his father’s legacy so I know he will find some comfort in that.
To the enormous blue family that has held us up after Charlie’s death, please don’t ever stop sharing the advice and humor with Andrew that his father isn’t here to give him. He needs you in a way I’ll never understand.
To may brave son: I love you, Andrew. You are exactly what this world needs. I know your heart is in the right place. I know this calling is your purpose in life so I hope it gives you enormous pride but keeps you humble…just like your father.
Son of fallen Tarpon Springs police officer sworn in as Tampa International Airport officer
It was a day filled with a wide range of emotions, but there was plenty of pride as the young officer fulfilled a dream of following in his father's footsteps. Andrew Kondek was raised in the law enforcement family.
"I grew up around my dad, learning things about my dad," Kondek said. "He was always kind to people, always caring, always trying to help everybody."
From a young age, he experienced the best of the badge, andsadly, the very worst.
December 21, 2014, his father, Tarpon Springs Officer Charles Kondek, Jr. was responding to a noise complaint when he was gunned down. He was 45 years old and a17-year veteran of the force who'd also served five years with the New York City Police Department.
"I want to be just like him," Andrew Kondek said in 2019. "If I can follow in his footsteps, do everything he did, that's all I want."
Andrew answered the call to serve. In 2019, he graduated from Law Enforcement Academy at Pasco-Hernando State College. His mother, Teresa presented him that day, with his father's handcuffs.
Three years later, she got to pin on his badge as aTampaInternational Airport police officer.
"It's kind of like a double-edged sword," Andrew said after the ceremony. "I'mhappy to be here, but it's also, you know, memories."
It's a full circle moment in a lot of ways.
In 2018, Tampa International Airport Police Chief Charlie Vazquez presented Andrew with a scholarship from the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association. Now, he's his boss.
"This is a very, very special day for us to welcome someone in the profession like Andrew Kondek," Vazquezsaid. "He's just a steady, calming influence."
Current Tarpon Springs Chief Jeff Young was right there with the new TPA officer to support the next generation.
With his hand around Kondek's shoulder, Young said, "I was just telling your mom, you know, she said his dad should have been here pinning the badge on. I said, he was here with you and with your mom. And he's looking down at you every day with pride."
Andrew hopes to bring his father's kindness and compassion to the force.
"I feel like if I can make a difference in one person's day, it's a good day for me," Officer Andrew Kondek said.
Thursday was also Officer Kondek's 31st birthday.So, he and his family have plenty to celebrate.