Steve Wajda thought about his wife Kim and 15-year-old son Chase early Tuesday morning when a masked man pointed a gun at him and demanded he turn over the Belle Glade Country Club night deposit bag.
“I just wondered whether I was going to make it home or not,” he said quietly Wednesday at a table in the dining area of the restaurant. “Whether I was going to live or die.”
Wajda, 48, was robbed early Tuesday morning as he was leaving the restaurant for his long drive home to Orlando. He stopped to throw something in the dumpster and when he turned around to go back through a gate, the unthinkable happened.
“There’s a guy with a black mask, black shirt and black pants and a gun sticking right in my face,” Wajda said. “So I took like three steps back and he took four steps forward, so we were actually even closer than what we were before.”
Wajda said when the gunman demanded the deposit bag, he had to make a split-second decision.
“If I give him the deposit, he can shoot me,” Wajda said. “So I’m like, ‘Well, if I make a move on him, I might get lucky or I might get shot.”
Wajda decided to fight his assailant, so he reached for the gun and pushed it away from him. He said he connected with the gunman twice with his right fist before getting hit in the head with the gun.
Wajda said that angered him, so he hit the gunman a couple more times and knocked him to the ground.
“He still had ahold of the gun, so I grabbed his gun hand and held it down and started beating on him,” Wajda said. “And that’s when the mask came off.”
Much to his surprise, Wajda said, he knew the gunman.
“I realized it was Brian Davis. He used to work for me over at Bonifay (Country Club),” Wajda said. “That pissed me off even more.”
Later Tuesday, the 33-year-old Davis was arrested after an 11-hour standoff at his girlfriend’s parents’ Village of LaBelle North home and a high-speed chase that ended in Lake County. He is in custody at the Sumter County Detention Center facing a litany of charges.
Wajda said Davis eventually got his hand loose and hit him with the gun across the chin and then pointed it at him.
“I was like, ‘I guess I’m done fighting,’” Wajda said.
At that point, Wajda said, Davis was visibly upset and pacing back and forth, asking him why he had to be a hero.
“He was like, ‘If I shoot you I’m going back to prison and if I don’t shoot you I go back to prison,’” Wajda said.
At that point, the longtime restaurant manager was just trying to get Davis to calm down.
“I told him, ‘As far as I’m concerned man, I don’t know who you are,’” Wajda said. “I’m just trying to get him out of there.”
Wajda said Davis ordered him to grab a nearby hose and turn on the water so he could wash away the blood covering the concrete from the fight. Then he demanded that Wajda roll up the hose.
“I’m thinking, ‘He’s going to shoot me in the back right now,” Wajda said. “But he didn’t.”
Wajda said he grabbed a wet towel, kneeled down and held it to his bleeding head as Davis told him not to move for five minutes.
“He’s like, ‘I’m going to have the gun on you and if you move, I’m going to shoot you,” Wajda said.
Four minutes later, Wajda, who turned the table on would-be robbers many years ago while working at a Checkers drive-through, said he went back inside the restaurant and called 911 for help. And he added that he couldn’t be happier with the way the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office handled the situation.
“They’re incredible, extremely professional,” he said.
As for what he’d say to Davis, Wajda just shook his head while recalling how he tried to support him and get him promoted to an assistant kitchen manager when the two worked together at Bonifay Country Club.
“I just feel bad for him,” Wajda said quietly. “And I feel bad for his kids.”
Wajda added that he really appreciated the concern shown by his longtime boss, owner
Fred Karimipour, who was among the first to check on him after the ordeal.
“He’s an incredibly generous person. He’s got a huge heart,” Wajda said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be driving an hour and 45 minutes each way just to work with him.”