DALLAS (AP) - Dallas police Officer Joshua Burns continues to recover from injuries he received earlier this month when he was shot three times while responding to a domestic call. But some fellow officers say his mental wounds may take the longest to heal.
Frederick Frazier, first vice president of the Dallas Police Association, said he often sees reluctance in officers who have been shot. "They feel responsible. They also feel that at some point that this is going to happen again - like a victim," Frazier said.
Burns is expected to come back from his physical injuries and return to duty. Meanwhile, four North Texas officers who also have been shot while on duty - including two last year - recently reflected on how the shootings affected their lives and gave a glimpse of what Burns might experience on his road to recovery.
Dallas police Lt. Tony Crawford felt his legs drop out from underneath him one night in November 1991. He likened the feeling to "getting hit by a pickup truck." A bullet had broken his spine, and he knew it immediately. His attackers' gun wouldn't fire again for some reason, so they beat him with it. His skull was fractured.
After the two teenagers - one of whom is serving a life sentence - spared him and fled into the night, Crawford watched paramedics scramble to save him. His mind reeled.
"You think about your own mortality, your family," said Crawford, who had a 15-month-old daughter.
Then-Police Chief Bill Rathburn visited his young sergeant in the hospital and knew just what to say.
"I assured him that as long as I had anything to say about it, he'd have a job with the Dallas Police Department," Rathburn told The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/1ewk40M ).
Crawford, 53, said the chief's guarantee meant a lot to him. He didn't want to stay home all day. He wanted to be a cop.
"I didn't want to allow the two guys that shot me to win by not being able to be a police officer anymore," he said. "I wanted to provide for my family and go to work and feel that self-worth of still being able to contribute to the Police Department."
At the time, the city didn't have a formal plan to allow permanently injured officers to return to duty. In September 2000, city officials adopted such a plan, a police spokesman said.
Crawford is now in a wheelchair, and his colleagues sometimes call him "Ironsides." He has been promoted to lieutenant and works in the department's high-tech fusion center, which monitors police activity and provides intelligence to officers in the field.
While he loved patrol and envies those officers, he said he knows how lucky he is. Every time he says goodbye to his daughter - who has graduated from college - and his wife, he tells them that he loves them.
"I could be hit by a car, or hit by a bus, or whatever," he said. "But if something like that happens, they know that's the last words they heard from me."
As they awaited a medical helicopter last July, paramedics stripped down Arlington Detective Charles Lodatto. He had been shot near his groin while trying to arrest 17-year-old murder suspect Tyler Holder in Saginaw.
Unaware of the seriousness of his injuries, Lodatto turned and joked with a colleague about his Tommy Hilfiger underwear that was exposed. His buddy looked back at him as if he had seen a ghost.
He almost had. The bullet had hit an artery and Lodatto lost a great deal of blood. A tourniquet may have saved him from bleeding to death.
Lodatto said recently that he didn't feel that much pain and never truly thought he was going to die. But while he was slipping in and out of consciousness, he said, he apparently told another officer to take care of his wife and family.
At the hospital, he was overwhelmed by visitors. So when he thought about visiting Burns in the hospital, he eventually decided against it after he recalled how exhausted he was from greeting all of his well-wishers.
Lodatto returned to work in late October and is physically close to normal. In December, he had to serve a warrant on another 17-year-old, who was suspected in bank robberies. He found the man hiding behind a mattress in his grandmother's garage. Lodatto said the Saginaw incident played in the back of his mind when he approached the man, but he got through it.
"It was touch and go, but when it was over, I thought, I needed that," he said. "I needed to make sure I could do that."
Lodatto, who describes himself as a "youthful 46," said the shooting brought him closer to his family and he used his faith to help him get back to normal. He acknowledged that the shooting was a setback but said, "All trials come with improvement."
Granbury police Officer Chad Davis said the most difficult part of being shot in June was that he survived - and Hood County Sheriff's Deputy Lance McLean didn't.
"Evidently, by God's grace, it wasn't my time to go," he said.
The gunman who killed McLean, whom Davis knew, opened fire a second time on a number of officers and deputies in June after he pulled into a Granbury City Hall parking lot. Davis drew the man's attention and was hit in the arm; the bullet went through his back. Another bullet ricocheted off the concrete, spraying fragments into his leg and knee, wounds he didn't notice right away.
He said his training kicked in, and he thought he'd be fine.
"It didn't even cross my mind that the bullet could've went through my heart and I'd only live five more minutes," he said. "I just thought, 'I'm OK, I'll go get treatment.'"
Davis, 38, was hospitalized for a few days and returned to work in November. But he can't run or lift his arm above his shoulder, and he can't hold a gun yet, so he is aiding investigations for now. He has another operation scheduled next week following two other surgeries, including a bone graft for his leg.
He said he stays positive and hasn't given up, but he does understand when others have problems coping with traumatic incidents.
"I've seen different scenarios where officers have gone through this and some who have actually committed suicide," he said. And while he said he's never considered killing himself, "I could definitely see where that could happen."
In his more than 20 years with the department, former Dallas narcotics Detective David Rodriguez, 65, had always stressed safety. And he was in top physical condition - he ran at least six miles every day.
But he never saw the man who shot him in January 1994 as he served a narcotics warrant. The bullet permanently paralyzed him.
He was hospitalized and went through months of treatment and rehab. Going back to work at a desk job was a relief, he said.
"I had never ever ever spent that much time as a patient in a hospital," Rodriguez said. "And I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
He said it took him a few years to accept that he would never walk again. Then, staying at the Police Department became unbearable.
"One day when I was sitting there at the desk, I was watching the narcotics squad team work," he said. "It hit me that I'm never going to do that again or anything like that at all. It was just too much."
He retired in 1996 but remains active with law enforcement. He teaches a course at the police academy about dealing with victims of crime. He worked for a while with the Dallas Police Association. He co-founded the Assist the Officer Foundation, which accepts donations in his name at atodallas.org.
And in 2008, he got back into the catching-criminals game briefly by using his specially outfitted pickup to follow a man who robbed a fast food restaurant until police arrived to arrest him.
Afterward, though, it hit him that he could have been the one making the arrest, and it reminded him again of his limitations.
"One of the toughest things for any officer who gets injured is to psychologically relive the incident and not have it totally control you," he said. "You need something to focus in on to not remind you of any of that."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com