Editor Note: This story is graphic and may be difficult for some people to read.
Charles Neill was shot while pursuing a fleeing suspect at high speeds. Thankfully, he survived, and was able to join us to tell his story, which can be which can be found here.
The entire reason we launched LET Unity was to give a voice to officers like Charles, who have never been able to tell their stories. It’s a tragic story – but also one filled with hope. With lessons. And with a dose of reality that America needs.
Proceeds from LET Unity memberships go directly back into telling the stories of warriors like Charles. We hope you’ll consider signing up. The mainstream media isn’t giving them a platform. Social media is censoring them. Help us to help them.
“After about 28 miles, they were lucky, and they struck me in the head with a .223 round.”
The very first episode of Thin Blue Blood featured Charles Neill. Here is his story.
I am a Lieutenant at the Oologah PD. My background is that I served in the Marine Corps in the Navy. After that, I decide to get involved in law enforcement. I was an officer in Texas for a while and then moved back to Oklahoma where I’m from and became an officer up there.
What was Charles’ best day of his career?
I’d say it’s the accumulation of days. Every day’s a good day. I can’t really think of one specific moment.
Ok. So, what about the worst day?
My worst day was May 28, 2015. I was on patrol, just filled up my vehicle when I received a call to backup an officer, north of town, on a traffic stop. We arrived at the traffic stop. We discussed how we would approach the vehicle.
We decided to approach the vehicle on the driver’s side. We approached the vehicle and asked the driver for his driver’s license and insurance. The driver handed over a Mexican driver’s license.
We asked him to roll down to the back windows, and he would only roll it down a fraction. He wouldn’t roll it down all the way.
Shortly after that, he decided to take off and we started pursuit.
We pursued them for about 30 miles. As soon as they took off, they started firing at us. We pursued them for about 30 miles. They’re shooting at us the whole time, (we’re) dodging and weaving, trying to not become a still target.
After about 28 miles they were lucky and struck me in the head with a .223 round.
After that, I blacked out. My vehicle left the roadway at about 110 miles per hour. The front of my patrol unit struck a tree stump which caused the vehicle to roll end over end about 14 times.
Charles has a family. How did they find out?
My wife and three boys were at the house. She actually found out through an instant message.
One of the first ambulances on the scene, the paramedic is a good friend of mine and he messaged my wife to tell her I was ok. 20 or 30 minutes after that, the PD sent an officer over to pick my wife up and take her to the hospital.
They didn’t tell her anything until we got to the hospital. She just knew that an officer had been shot. She didn’t know it was me until they came to pick her up.
So, Lt. Neill was shot in the head, hit a tree at 110 miles per hour and flipped his car 14 times. After finding out the details, she had to be freaking out and thinking “there is no way he is going to survive.”
At first, she went to that dark place that I didn’t survive. How can somebody survive being shot in the head and being involved in a violent car accident afterwards?
She got a lot of focus back on God and on our religion. Then, just learning how you can do with less, that you don’t always have to keep up the lifestyle you have. It’s about making changes and adapting to your new situation?
Neill went from a decent salary, working for both the Oologah PD and for Rogers State University, to substantially less after his injuries. How did they deal with that while also dealing with the recovery and healing processes?
Just like many officers out there in the U.S., we work more than one job. Some of us have two full time jobs and we still work jobs on the side.
So, it was a significant decrease going from what I was making, down to 70 percent of one income at the job that you’re injured at.
We had to adjust a little, sell off a couple of vehicles and just spend money on what it really needed to be spent on.
How did the Oologah Police Department support him through all of this?
Well, at first the department treated me good. We have a great chief and he was there supporting me. The problem though, is the town didn’t support me. After the first year, the town council decided to stop paying me.
So, after the first year, I stopped receiving the 30 percent that they were making up so that I had a 100% paycheck.
And workmen’s compensation?
The Oklahoma Workmen’s Comp system is a broken system. The insurance companies have control of it. There are not many state statutes that guide how they should respond, how they should treat people. So, each insurance company gets to make up how they treat every patient, and no one’s treated the same.
The state of Oklahoma, six months before my accident, did away with the settlement system. It’s almost impossible to find a lawyer to work with you, because there is no way for that lawyer to get paid when they do a settlement. So, it’s very hard to find a lawyer in Oklahoma that will touch a worker’s comp case.
We had our first case, we had to get the judge to order the insurance company to pay for the Life Flight and hospital bills. The insurance company wasn’t paying them, and they started being reported to my credit and damaging my credit.
We had to go (to a judge) and get the judge to order that they start paying bills timely so that it wouldn’t have a negative effect on me.
Several other treatments, we’ve had to go to court to get the state to order worker’s comp to let me see different types of doctors. It took us a year to get into a neurologist, because the insurance company wouldn’t approve it.
When you have a head injury, a neurologist is probably the first person you should see. It shouldn’t be someone you see a year later.
In Oklahoma, we don’t we don’t have a really good brain institute that treats traumatic brain injuries. So, they kind of threw together doctors. We had to beg doctors to take the case, as most doctors won’t accept worker’s comp, because it pays less than Medicare and Medicaid.
So, what’s next for Charles and his family?
We’re looking at possibly, in the future, starting a ranch for injured law enforcement and their children. We want to bring families out and help the children re-bond with their parents.
In my situation, for three years, my three boys were pushed to the side. So, I think it’s important that we have a place for the injured LEO to come with their family and re-bond with their children.
What would Charles say to those out there that might be facing the same struggles that he has faced?
Stay strong. Keep fighting.
There are parts of our system that need to change. We need to contact our legislators and ask for change, or change will ever be made.
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