ST. PETERSBURG — Seconds after opening fire on a troubled teenager who had just shot at him and run off, St. Petersburg police Officer Matthew Enhoffer heard four dreaded words crackle over his radio.
"Shots fired! Officer down!"
Enhoffer made a decision. The teen was already suspected in a shooting near Coffee Pot Bayou earlier that May evening, and now he had fired at two officers.
"I need to do what I need to do," Enhoffer, 30, recalled thinking. "I need to stop the violence."
Moments later, Austin Lee Goodner was mortally wounded, shot by Enhoffer. And Officer Michael "Micky" Cordiviola was being rushed to a hospital.
On Wednesday, Enhoffer and Cordiviola were awarded the Medal of Valor, the department's highest — and rarely bestowed — honor. Two other officers there that day, Todd Hancock and Brian Lynch, received the Chief's Exceptional Service Award.
Before the ceremony held at the city's Sunshine Center, Enhoffer, Cordiviola and Hancock spoke with reporters about the incident for the first time.
Enhoffer and three other St. Petersburg officers were at the home of Goodner, an 18-year-old with a history of mental illness suspected of shooting a man on a bicycle near Coffee Pot Bayou. As officers spoke with Goodner's father in the front yard, Enhoffer ran into the teen behind the family home near Northeast High School and ordered him to show his hands.
Instead, Goodner opened fire with a handgun. Enhoffer returned fire with a shotgun.
When the first shots rang out, Cordiviola, Lynch and Hancock headed for the back yard. Cordiviola, 41, rounded the corner and Goodner opened fire, hitting Cordiviola in the leg. Hancock, a police dog handler and 10-year veteran of the department, told Lynch to pull Cordiviola around the corner of the house.
"I just stood in front of him and (thought), if this guy comes around the corner I'm going to do what I have to do," said Hancock, 37.
Lynch, who was unable to attend the ceremony, pulled Cordiviola away and covered the other side of the house. The bullet had torn clean through Cordiviola's leg below the knee. Through adrenaline and searing pain, the U.S. Air Force reservist thought to grab a garden hose to use as a tourniquet.
Enhoffer recognized Lynch's voice on the radio and wondered if it was Cordiviola or Hancock who was dead or dying. Suddenly Goodner reappeared and opened fire. Enhoffer returned fire, hitting Goodner, who continued to shoot after he hit the ground. He eventually dropped the gun and officers rushed in to subdue him and render first aid. He died at the hospital.
Enhoffer, who joined the department five years ago, had never fired his weapon or been fired upon in the line of duty.
"It's not something that's easy, knowing that you took someone else's life, but in the end we had somebody who had already shot somebody else, who tried to kill myself, tried to kill another police officer," he said. "I know without a doubt that had I just stood there and let the suspect leave the back yard and go on his merry way, other innocent people would be dead."
The valor medal is awarded to officers who commit "an act of bravery while consciously facing imminent and life-threatening peril." It was last awarded posthumously to Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger, who were killed in 2011 by an armed fugitive hiding in an attic, and Officer David S. Crawford, killed by a 16-year-old prowler.
Cordiviola, a married father of three, also received the police Purple Heart. He's expected to make a full recovery.
"We live in a dangerous society and we just try to do the best we can in the community to keep everybody safe," he said. "We're always going to have people with mental problems or issues, and it's just a matter of getting the proper training to be able to deal with all different types of people."
Contact Tony Marrero at email@example.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.