I Was the Officer Listed in Critical Condition

So often we read a news story about police officers injured during a combative encounter. They are rushed to the hospital and listed in critical condition. Or perhaps it wasn’t quite that bad. Their medical prognosis was “only” serious but stable condition. I was that officer and this is my story.

Orlando Police Department

I had been an officer with the Orlando Police Department for several years. On Sept. 9, 2007, I volunteered to assist on a call in which a man had driven his vehicle into a retention pond. Once in the pond, the vehicle sank.

Assembly of People

This crash occurred in the ghetto where I was a patrolman. As the vehicle sank and help arrived, about 300 people assembled to watch. Once I arrived I saw the driver was swimming toward shore. All that remained visible of the car was the rooftop.

In preparation to assist potential passengers in the car, because that is what we do, I began to remove my duty belt. Trying to swim with it in place would be nearly impossible, not to mention my gear would be damaged.

In the process, I asked a person in the crowd if anyone else was in the car. “No” came the reply, so I re-secured my duty belt and approached the water-deluged male-black-driver as he trudged to the shoreline.

The Encounter

“Are you okay,” I asked.

But his response is best described as “gibberish.” It was simply indiscernible.

As a result, I thought a head injury was highly likely. Consequently, I thought he should sit down, but he declined.

I called for rescue/EMS to check on him. Suddenly, he looked at me and said he was leaving. Due to the crash investigation as well as my concern for his welfare, I told him he would be unable to walk away.

As he began to leave I attempted to cuff his right wrist. He spun away and ended up in a bladed stance squaring off against me. I drew my ASP baton from its holder, extended it and began to order him to the ground. He turned to leave again. As a result, I grabbed his wrist but he spun away in the same fashion. However, his disposition changed. Now he expressed the look of anger and a fight was imminent.

My Last Radio Transmission

I struck him four times exactly as trained—downward 45 degree angle to the side of his thigh and the side of his shoulder. Yet there was no response from the suspect. He just looked at me.

My concern escalated regarding the large crowd in attendance. As the suspect tried to leave once again, I stopped him.

“Someone needs to get here now,” became the final radio transmission I’d ever make. Unfortunately, my backup had a difficult time finding me.

“If you hit me again with that F*****g thing I will whip your ass!” my combatant told me.

Lights Out

In the best effort to do my job, I struck him once again. But he returned a knockout blow. BOOM! He smacked me with his right fist to the left temple causing me to go blind.

What happened? Where’d everyone go?

As things progressed, I turned toward the crowd to give myself some time to regain vision. Things were hazy and unclear in my mind. Consequently, I do not know if he took my baton or I dropped it. Yet regardless of the chain of events, one thing was certain; he possessed my ASP and was about to use it on me.

My Knees Buckled and I Lost Consciousness

His first strike came across the top of my right ear. After being hit with a fist several times in the line of duty, I knew the blow was delivered by something much harder.

My knees began to buckle and the second strike came across my lower jaw. WHACK! The best way to describe my newly broken chops was they turned sideways in my mouth. My tongue now lapped over part of my oral cavity that was grossly out of place.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen grotesque injuries of a player’s leg going the wrong direction following a traumatic injury. I.e. Think of Joe Theismann in the NFL, Shaun Livingston in the NBA, or most recently Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics. (Google their injuries and be prepared to have your stomach churn.)

Well, that was my jaw!

So in a blind haze with the world spinning miles away from my present awareness, I went down in the gutter and out like a boxer who just received the final blow.

Most of the story from this point forward came from detectives who pieced together my life after the fact. I was merely a human piñata unable to defend myself.

The suspect—a man I tried to help—continued to punch, kick, and hit me with the baton as a crowd looked on as if a Gladiator had been soundly defeated.

“Kill the cracker,” they chanted. “Hit that cracker again,” the bloodthirsty onlookers shouted as they hoisted their voices to encourage my attacker.

Was the Angel of Death About to Call?

The suspect breached my holster and cocked my weapon. But something occurred and he could not remove it.

My next memory after regaining consciousness, were the buttons of a police uniform covering my face. A fellow officer was getting the suspect off me.

I laid there in the gutter trying to gather myself, although I knew that my brothers-in-blue were fighting with the combative man a few feet away. So I instinctively picked myself up with the ambition to help fight. When I did my head fell forward and blood coated my hands.

Listed In Critical Condition

For a split second I saw my partners fighting and I knew they were losing. I fell back into the gutter while I silently prayed he did not come for me.

The bad guy managed to overwhelm the officers and escape.

Shortly afterward, Orlando Fire Department loaded me into an ambulance and rushed me to the hospital. Their preliminary assessment was unfavorable. Actually, they were not sure I would survive.

When doctors assessed my injuries, I was fortunate. Although the trauma my body received was significant, none of it would prove fatal.

In the meantime, my attacker was captured a few hours later.

Reconstructive Surgery

While hospitalized, I benefited from several medical procedures, and fortunately the initial fear by OFD would not come to fruition. I was going to survive. One of the foremost benefits of my hospitalization was reconstructive surgery. Once the surgeons put my face back together, I was allowed to complete my recovery from home five days later.

Shortly after the incident, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result, I cannot describe with a sense of justice the personal hell my life has become.

‘Bowl of Lasagna’

Nearly one year after the incident, I was awarded a disability pension.

About two years after the crime, the case went to trial. One of the fireman testified that I was completely unresponsive after the viscous attack. Furthermore, he said my face looked like a “bowl of lasagna.”

The bad guy was convicted at trial, but more on that later.

Life Goes On

My life has become lonely. I have since moved to Tennessee and reached out to my local law enforcement agencies to try to meet cops who have been through something similar. My hope is to find others who understand what I’m experiencing, and how I feel.

My contact with the agency said they gave my number to cops who may have been through something similar. But of course in typical cop fashion no one called.

I have spent many days and nights crying, just wishing that I had someone to talk to who understands what I’m going through.

My Message

It’s discouraging when our media frequently bashes law enforcement. Our police officers do their best to hold society together. I did all I could to fulfill my oath, but now I fight internal battles that will never be part of the story.

I see media reports of activists who destroy civilized life. It seems to be glorified to some degree—as if their destructive behavior is justified. Yet what about my blood? Was my sacrifice worthless? Is it less valuable or unworthy of coverage?

Or how about so many other heroes that wind up in the same boat, living in pain and suffering after the dust has settled?

Racism is wrong. There is simply no way to defend it, regardless of the offender.

If I had to give a speech to the world I would incorporate words from a well-known song by Garth Brooks, “We Shall Be Free.” If only this were reality. Sadly, a lot of things need to change before that can happen.

Epilogue

As previously mentioned, my attacker was convicted of attempted murder on a police officer while using a weapon. As a result, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The public defender appealed and the court of appeals overturned the conviction.

The state wanted to retry the case, but I asked them to seek a plea bargain. Another trial simply looked like a monumental task. Consequently, he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and was sentenced to six years in prison. However, he committed other offenses while in custody and wound up serving more than seven years. He regained his freedom in late 2015. About eight months later he was shot and killed by his drug supplier.

Unnamed Officer, Orlando Police Department, as told to LET Staff

(Photo courtesy DanSun Photo Art)