Columbus’ Wangler, Gumm net prestigious honors
Columbus Police Sgt. Brad Wangler was just doing his job when he suffered wounds in a June shootout with a Grand Island man who was wanted by authorities on an outstanding warrant.
Wangler, now a 20-year veteran of the Columbus Police Department, was shot in the neck and shoulder that night. In the months that have followed he has been recovering at home while being showered with support from community members.
“I don’t know if thank you could ever be enough for how this community has just not only supported me but my family and my family in blue,” Wangler said on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re part of an amazing community here in Columbus.”
Having served the community as an officer and in other capacities, as well as taking pride in being a husband and father, Wangler shies away from the word “hero.” On Tuesday night, The Police Officers’ Association of Nebraska was scheduled to honor him as Police Officer of the Year, something that was still a bit surreal to him hours before he made the trek to Kearney with his wife for the ceremony.
“I think humbled is an understatement,” Wangler said. “I was taught a long time ago that you’re only as good as those who surround you. My family, those I get to work with and have trained me, this community, this award is because of them.”
CPD was to be well-represented at the banquet.
Former Columbus Police Chief William Gumm was scheduled to be inducted into the Police Officers’ Association of Nebraska Hall of Fame. Gumm served as Columbus’ police chief for 23 years (1994-2017), bringing to an end a fruitful career in law enforcement. He got his start as a dispatcher with the Bellevue Police Department before spending two years in the U.S. Army Military Police during the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star for his service. He rejoined the Bellevue department in 1975, working his way up to patrol sergeant and then lieutenant over the next 18 years before making his way to Columbus.
“It was very rewarding for my part; I hope they (his years of service) were rewarding for the city,” Gumm said on Tuesday afternoon. “I think we provided the city with good police service, good officers, good equipment and we met the expectations, if not exceeded those of the city.”
Gumm said he, his wife and daughter were going to attend Tuesday night’s banquet and that the thought of being in the Hall of Fame still hadn’t sunk in.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” he said. “When I look at people in the Hall of Fame, sometimes I don’t know if I measure up to those guys.”
The former chief said he was honored to be recognized, but stressed it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the support he received throughout the years.
“I couldn’t be considered without the exceptional work of the people on the police department who did that day in, day out,” Gumm said, noting all men and women in the department throughout the years, as well as all of the city councilors, mayors and city administrators he worked with during his tenure.
Columbus Police Chief Charles Sherer, who succeeded Gumm in the role and worked with him for 20 years, said Gumm is a great individual. Sherer joined the local force after serving as Schuyler’s police chief for many years.
“For me, he was a good chief, a great mentor. I learned a lot. He taught me a lot about management, leadership, decision making,” Sherer said.
The chief likened Gumm’s leadership style to bumper bowling, noting Gumm would let you make decisions on your own - to the sides of a lane, so to speak - but would make sure you got back in line with his vision down the middle.
“He was an individual who let you go in your own direction until he didn’t want you going in that direction,” he said. “And you always knew when that was … I respect him and learned a lot from him.”
Sherer also praised Wangler, noting the sergeant is a true example of what being a good community police officer is all about. He said Wangler always carries himself with class and knows how to properly handle stressful situations, such as what he went through back in June.
“The way he conducted himself in that melee probably contributed to him still being with us today,” Sherer said. “He’s a humble individual and he won’t take a lot of the credit.”
Sherer, who said he planned to attend Tuesday night’s ceremony as well, said Gumm and Wangler are examples of the many people he is happy to have or does work with at CPD.
“I’m proud of the people who worked with us and continue to work for us, those who worked for us and represent us,” he said. “They helped put Columbus on the map and helped build us a good reputation not just in our community, but also amongst our peers.”
Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley said the honors say a lot about the Columbus Police Department and the community as a whole. He said Gumm and Wangler are deserving of the recognition.
“What can I say about Chief Gumm and the service he gave to Columbus? You never heard much from Chief Gumm because he just quietly did his job,” Bulkley said. “Sergeant Wangler is just a great example of the type of officer any community wants to represent its citizens. He’s a tremendous family man, very involved with the community, comes from a history of family in law enforcement and is just extremely dedicated.”
As for Wangler, he said he’s excited about getting back into a routine a few months months after the shooting.
“God has definitely blessed me and my family with so many things. The support of this community is definitely one of them,” he said. “I’m doing very (well). I’m back on light duty at work. Hopefully, I’ll soon be back to full duty again.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.