DES MOINES, Iowa -- Millions of cars pass through Interstate 80 every year but it was one car, 30 years ago that forever bound four Iowa State Troopers to their victim.
On Wednesday, they all met for the first time sharing their account of the night of March 26, 1986.
The now retired state troopers say, 25 – year – old John Govia was suspected of killing of a family member in Illinois, kidnapping his 19 – month - old son then fleeing to Iowa. Retired trooper, Bob Cox, first spotted the suspect’s car near what’s now the Grand Prairie Trail Parkway interchange in Waukee and began to follow him.
“All I hear is the car description and the suspect say he`ll kill his kid and himself if police stop him.”
John Govia Jr. was too young to remember the day but says hearing trooper’s stories is chilling.
“It’s weird to hear it. I never thought I would meet you guys,” says the now 32 – year – old.
Govia Jr. says he spent several years trying to search for the men who saved his life but was unsuccessful. It wasn’t until recently, he googled his father’s name and it appeared in a book written by retired sergeant, Charles Black, one of the men who saved Govia’s life.
“For all the coincidences that had to happen, for this meeting to happen, it really makes me believe in the power of a higher being.”
Black told Channel 13 it was an amazing experience to be in the same room with Govia Jr. as an adult. The retired trooper got emotional as he recounted the crisis negotiation exchange he had with the suicidal suspect while trying to get the baby to safety.
“I said let me see your hands. He held his hands up on the steering wheel. I picked it up grabbed the gun, stepped back and yelled, ‘I got the gun! Grab the baby,’” remembers Black.
The victim’s gesture of gratitude is one troopers say they never expected to happen. Retired trooper Al Steil says, “I worked for 36 years with the Department of Public Safety and I can tell you this is the first time that I ever had anybody come back look me up and say thank you.”
Govia says he’s now living life inspired and is grateful to have met his heroes before it’s too late. Sergeant Black is battling cancer. Doctors recently told him he was given only two weeks to live.
“I`m very inspired to do something more with my life. I want to focus on other people and to help other people like you`ve helped me,” says Govia Jr.