As an Army Ranger, Stephen Broadus did not flinch in the face of fierce combat training drills.
However, early on Easter Sunday, the 25-year-old who had been honorably discharged from the army days earlier said he had been uncharacteristically defeated.
In a text message to a friend about 20 minutes before he was fatally hit by a car on Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach, Broadus said he was assaulted.
“I’m concussed,” he told the friend. “Man, I blew myself twice.”
The confusing text, along with several phone conversations, convinced Broadus’ family that other factors may have contributed to his death. So they search for answers about the last moments of his life.
Has no sense
Tammy Broadus, 23, of Huntington Beach, said it made no sense for her brother, who she describes as careful and methodical, to venture into traffic.
“I think whoever jumped on Stephen had been continuously chasing him,” she theorized. And she believes his suspected concussion left him disoriented and walked down the street.
Broadus was walking outside an intersection crosswalk in the northbound lanes on Beach Boulevard between Utica and Adams avenues when he was struck around 4 a.m. on April 17, Jennifer Carey said, Public Information Officer for the Huntington Beach Police Department.
The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene, cooperated fully with police and did not appear to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, she added.
Broadus was taken by ambulance to UC Irvine Medical Center, where he underwent brain surgery but died on April 23.
Broadus, who was captain of the Edison High School wrestling team and defensive lineman for the West Point sprint football team, served in the military for seven years.
He was about to start a new career as a software engineer for Amazon and had been in Huntington Beach for less than a day when tragedy struck.
how the night started
Broadus’ night out began around 8:30 p.m. on April 16, when he and friends were driven to The Bungalow, a bar in Huntington Beach’s Pacific City shopping complex, Tammy Broadus said.
She and other family members compiled a timeline of Broadus’ activities through a review of video footage from the bar’s security cameras and conversations with friends who were there.
Tammy Broadus said a friend reported that her brother, who was wearing a black sweatshirt that read “Ranger”, black pants and black sneakers, was not drunk or too drunk at the Bungalow.
“He was happy and relaxing with friends and was thrilled to be back home,” she said, adding that by 1:09 a.m. on April 17, all of her brother’s friends had left the bar, but he stayed.
Video footage shows Broadus spoke to a group of girls inside the Bungalow at 1:47 a.m., then tripped and fell on his way to the door, his sister said.
“He gets up as if nothing had happened, and leaves for Pacific City. It appeared to me that he was in good shape, not drunk or intoxicated,” she said. “He did not appear to be in any fights or altercations at the time that we could see and did not appear to be in angry or displeased.”
Things change just before 2 a.m.
However, a series of conversations and text messages between Broadus and a friend show a change in his behavior beginning with a phone call at 1:51 a.m.
“I was asking him to come to where I was staying (in Orange),” the friend told Tammy Broadus in a text. “He was arguing with someone. It sounded hot and I was trying to calm him down. I told him that I was already on my way home and fighting and arguing with someone was a bad idea.
The friend said Broadus called back almost immediately, saying he had stopped arguing and walked away from the volatile situation.
“I was relieved (and) then urged him to take an Uber to a safe area and come to the address I sent him,” the friend told Tammy Broadus. “I’m pretty sure I even offered to send him an Uber.”
“He fought and lost”
In a subsequent phone call, Broadus said “he fought and lost,” but seemed consistent, the friend reported.
Broadus texted the friend at 3:15 a.m. saying he had a concussion, then again 28 minutes later saying he had been attacked twice.
Tammy Broadus believes her brother, who had a black belt in tae kwon do, had been outnumbered by his attackers. “He was so strong and a fighter,” she said. “He could take three (people) at a time.”
While an investigation is ongoing, police have been unable to find any calls for service or evidence pointing to a fight or altercation involving Broadus, Carey said.
“The Best Guy in the Universe”
Meanwhile, Tammy Broadus has fond memories of her brother, who was always quick with a joke and once saved her from a surf on a local beach when she was 11.
“He was the best guy in the universe,” she said. “She was the sweetest, kindest, strongest and bravest person I know.”
Anyone with information about Broadus’ death is asked to call Huntington Beach police at 714-960-8811.