Serghei Comerzan is charged with second-degree murder and felony murder, among other charges, in the death of Trooper James Bava.
Now, as Bava’s family prepares to sit through another heart-wrenching trial, his mother is opening up about the tragedy and an organization that has been instrumental during this time.
“He was quiet natured, very easy going, and someone who was extremely wise. He was an old soul,” Alyce Bava said of her son James, one of her four children.
Mrs. Bava thinks James went into law enforcement after being inspired by his older brother, who was an officer in Seattle. For James, he felt called to being a State Trooper.
“Being a State Trooper in his mind and his understanding, was somebody who was akin to the Canadian Mountie. Somebody who was noble, courageous, self-sacrificing,” said Mrs. Bava. “He put on that uniform and he loved wearing the hat.”
Bava started the law enforcement academy in July 2013 and field training in January 2015. On a Friday morning in August 2015, the Bava family was forever changed.
“My son [James’ brother] just rushed me into the foyer here and just started saying ‘I’m sorry mom, I’m sorry.’ Those words were never spoken, that James was dead,” said Mrs. Bava.
An investigation later revealed that James was on duty in Audrain County when prosecutors said a motorcycle driver sped by him going 105 miles an hour. As Trooper Bava was pursuing the driver, he crashed his patrol car and was killed. Bava was 25 years old and survived by his parents, a fiancé, siblings, and many other loved ones.
Prosecutors argue Serghei Comerzan was driving the motorcycle and fled from Bava, therefore leading to his death. News 4 reached out to Comerzan’s attorney for this story but did not hear back.
As the Bava family was making funeral arrangements, a woman they had never met was mourning for them.
“When we hear of another officer killed in the line of duty, it’s like reliving your own. So it’s very difficult. That pain keeps resurfacing because you know what it’s like. You know what that pain is like, what those first days are like, what those first months are like and what they have to endure for the rest of their lives,” said Annette Jansen.
Nearly 10 years ago, Jansen’s husband Grant, a K9 officer with the St. Charles Police Department, died in a single vehicle accident.
“I was home at the time with my two children, who were six and four, and I was also six weeks pregnant at the time with our third child,” said Jansen.
Jansen recalled trying to make funeral arrangements for her husband when she got a gift from a group called Missouri Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), an organization she had never heard of. The basket included the contact information for Michelle Stanze, who was also pregnant when her husband, an officer with St. Louis Metropolitan Police, was shot and killed.
“I remember calling her and having a sense of relief, like ‘Ok. You get this. How am I going to survive?’” Jansen said of her first conversation with Stanze.
In the years since, Jansen learned more about the C.O.P.S. organization and how it is determined to provide emotional support for survivors of fallen law enforcement, get these families to National Police Week, and send them on retreats throughout the country so they can connect with other families. They aim to be there for spouses, children, parents, significant others, coworkers, and even spouses of coworkers. Jansen is now the president of the Missouri chapter of C.O.P.S.
The Bava family was the first one Jansen reached out to in her formal role with the organization.
“It’s not easy but I know how much of an impact it had on me and my kids when it happened to me,” said Jansen.
The outreach was welcomed by the Bava family.
“I just remember that being one of the most impactful things to me, and to my husband, that this is someone who understood what we were going through,” said Mrs. Bava. “Here is someone who had been through a line of duty death and who had known, firsthand, the trauma and traumatic experience that we were going through. It was such a huge comfort.”
In the months since the families have grown closer. When the Bava family enters the courtroom later this month, Jansen and the entire Missouri C.O.P.S. organization will be supporting them.
A mistrial was ruled in the case against Comerzan, the defendant, last May. Jury selection for the retrial in St. Charles County will begin February 23.
“It is reliving everything. Rehashing everything,” said Mrs. Bava of having to again sit in court and listen as the prosecution and defense teams argue about her sons final moments.
When asked if she has forgiven the defendant, Mrs. Bava notes you can offer forgiveness while still demanding justice.
“There is nothing that gives satisfaction in a situation like this. It doesn’t bring James back. We don’t have our son. He died a horrific, horrible death. That wakes me up at night. But we have been spared from that vindictive anger toward him [the defendant],” said Mrs. Bava.
As she prepares to endure another trial, she takes solace knowing her family isn’t going through this alone.
“We are left with mourning a son, and a loss, but the Missouri C.O.P.S. organization is an organization that remembers, and are there for us, and will be there for us,” said Mrs. Bava.
If you want to learn more about the Missouri C.O.P.S. organization, you can visit its Facebook page or website. The organization does rely on monetary donations to fund training for its board. They are hosting an inaugural Black and Blue Ball in April to raise money to send families of survivors to Washington D.C. for Police Week.
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