BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- "It was just a backpack, but it was -- but it was his backpack. It was the one he had his last day of school."
When Jef Goodnight's car was stolen, it was of the utmost importance to him that he get it back, but not because of the car itself. Goodnight had left two of his son, Mason's, belongings in the car, items that now held significant sentimental value to his family.
"He passed away in April, and I just hadn't been able to take it out of the car yet," remembers Goodnight.
A backpack and a ball marker were suddenly some of the last remaining signs of his son's life -- grief immediately shouldered by the Bowling Green community and the Bowling Green Police Department.
"Just by coincidence I was out by Scottsville Road and the Dollar Store, and I observed it drive passed me," explains Bowling Green Police Detective Alex Wright, who had been asked to be on the lookout for the stolen car.
The suspect quickly realized he was being tailed, and fled on foot. Wright called for backup that day, but Jamie Peerce, a former Bowling Green Police Officer, actually arrived on scene first.
"As he ran away, I stayed in my vehicle and kind of followed him around back in behind one of the hotels across the street," says Peerce.
At some point Peerce realized the suspect was getting away, and made a split second decision to not let that happen, keeping him on the ground until police arrived.
"You try to be a good witness, but sometimes you get put in a situation where if you're going to react, I guess you have to choose that point at when you're going to react," he says.
The collective effort of law enforcement past and present coupled with the Goodnight's story being shared more than 7,000 times on Facebook ultimately led to a happy ending.
"It was great," says Detective Wright. "Mr. Goodnight, he actually gave me a hug, which was very touching. I could just tell that he was very appreciative."
"One of the officers that was there, that got the call when the car was found, was also one of the first people here the day that Mason passed away, so that was really special, too," shares Janna Goodnight, Mason's mom.
"We got there that day, and I think they were as happy or more happy that they got that car, and they got those two things back and they were able to do that for us, than we were getting them back," adds Jef Goodnight.
For the love and respect they showed the Goodnight family, we honor the Jamie Peerce and the Bowling Green Police Department as our Hughes and Coleman Hometown Hero.