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By Stan Finger
The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. - Officer Dan Taylor leaned down inside the ambulance. "Can I do something for you?" he asked fellow officer Derek Purcell, who minutes before had been shot and critically wounded.
"Dan, you can have a priest meet me at the hospital," Purcell said softly.
"Don't be talking like that," Taylor told him.
"I'm not going to die," Purcell said. "I just want a priest at the hospital."
But Purcell knew his life hung in the balance.
"I had a pretty good idea I could die," he said.
Purcell had seen the muzzle flash twice when the man on the sidewalk spun around and fired. He felt the bullets hit him -- the first in his left leg, the second in his right.
Within minutes, his right leg was virtually useless and his pants leg was soaked in blood.
Purcell, 24, had spent a semester in a Catholic seminary before becoming a police officer three years ago, and he wanted to pray as the ambulance raced through Wichita to the hospital. But he couldn't remember the prayers he'd learned as a child: the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Act of Contrition.
"It became more of a talk with God... in case I did die," he admitted later.
Purcell was shot by Francisco Aguilar just east of Maple and Meridian on the night of July 11, police said. He survived, authorities say, because of quick action by other officers, firefighters, emergency medical service workers and medical staff.
Aguilar, 26, shot himself in the head minutes after wounding Purcell as officers closed in. He died the next morning.
Purcell is now recuperating at home.
This account of that night's events is drawn from interviews with Purcell and several of the law enforcement officers, firefighters and doctors who played a role in the incident.
A woman called 911 shortly before 11:20 p.m. to report a man behaving suspiciously in the 500 block of South Richmond. Purcell talked to residents of the neighborhood next to Friends University and quietly trolled the streets. He found nothing.
Someone had been breaking into cars near Friends recently, though, so Purcell decided to linger.
As he drove east on Maple from Meridian at 11:30 p.m., he spotted a man walking east on the north side of the street. White shirt. Blue jeans. A haircut that could be mistaken for a black stocking cap.
That was almost exactly the description given by the caller on South Richmond.
"I was pretty sure that was the guy," Purcell said.
He turned his patrol car around, parking next to the curb at St. Clair and flipping on the red-blue flashing lights.
The man on the sidewalk kept walking, his face down.
"If they're up to no good, they're going to take off," Purcell said. "He just kept walking at the same pace."
Purcell walked to the back of his patrol car and said "Hey" to get the man's attention.
Without a word, Aguilar spun around and fired twice, police said.
When he saw the man turn, Purcell said, "My heart just sank."
"It was like there was a measurable gap, it was that slow," he said. "I saw the muzzle flash and the first one hit me."
It was as if someone clubbed him in the left hip with a baseball bat.
"I thought, 'Holy cow, this guy's shooting at me,' " Purcell said. "I just couldn't believe it."
In the split second between gunshots, Purcell squared his body to shoot back. The second bullet hit him in the right leg, just below the pelvis.
"That one hurt," he said. "It sounded like a snapping stick."
Aguilar fled north, between two houses. Purcell fired four shots that missed and ran after him.
He got as far as the front of the houses before it became clear something was wrong.
"My right leg wasn't working," he said. "I couldn't make it run. It was just real slow, real weak. I could feel the blood pooling in my boot as I was running. It turned into a limping jog."
Realizing he was more seriously hurt than he initially thought, Purcell used his portable radio to call for help.
"Shots fired! I've been hit."
Officer Dan Taylor was so close to Maple and St. Clair that he heard the gunfire. He thought it was firecrackers.
Pop-pop... pop-pop-pop-pop.
But "I've been hit" told Taylor what had happened. He was at the scene in seconds and saw Purcell limping down a driveway toward his patrol car.
"His whole pant leg was soaked -- you couldn't see anything but red," Taylor said.
Not knowing where Aguilar was, Taylor told Purcell to lie down in the street so he could shield him with his body.
"The priority at that point was to keep the suspect from coming back and doing any more damage," Taylor said.
Officer Richard McConnell arrived and stood watch, his gun drawn.
"Without him," Taylor said of McConnell, "we were sitting ducks."
Taylor dragged Purcell behind his patrol car to provide added cover. He pressed down on Purcell's right leg in an attempt to slow the bleeding. It didn't work.
Special Community Action Team officers Brad Crouch and Travis Easter pulled up seconds after McConnell. Crouch was a medic in Army special forces for nine years, and one glance at all the blood told him Purcell was in trouble.
Purcell was godfather to Crouch's infant son. Seeing Crouch calmed Purcell -- until he saw the look on his friend's face.
"You could tell that he was worried," Purcell said.
Crouch pulled Purcell's pants down and saw where all the blood was coming from: a wound by the pelvis.
"It was pretty obvious what it was," Taylor said. "You don't bleed like that unless it's the femoral artery."
The femoral artery carries blood to the legs. If it's cut, a person can bleed to death in minutes.
Crouch took Purcell's trouser belt and cinched it as tightly as he could on the leg, using his own shirt to pack the wound. Taylor put his hand beneath the belt and atop the shirt. He and Crouch took turns applying as much pressure on the wound as they could. It slowed the bleeding, but did not stop it.
"I don't think anybody else on scene -- or very few in the whole department -- would have had his knowledge and ability to assess it that quickly and start treatment," Easter said of Crouch. "I mean, it was just seconds."
As a result of the incident, police officials are considering adding basic combat lifesaver training to the department's curriculum.
As Purcell waited and wondered when the rescue squad and ambulance would arrive, his mind flashed back to a conversation he had had with Lt. Guy Schroeder at a Wichita State University baseball game this spring.
"He was talking about how 'We've been too lucky. It's been a long time since we lost someone in the line of duty. We're overdue for it. I'm scared of it,' " Purcell said.
Purcell thought, too, about a plaque he had seen that honored the last three Wichita police officers killed in the line of duty: Lt. Jack Galvin in 2000, Officer Danny Laffey in 1982, and Officer Paul Garofalo in 1980.
"I kept thinking, 'I don't want to be on that plaque! I don't want to be on that plaque!' " Purcell said.
Purcell was having trouble breathing, so Easter pulled off his shirt and bulletproof vest.
When firefighters from Station 4 near Meridian and McCormick heard the "shooting -- officer down" alert, seven of them jumped into three trucks. They arrived in less than two minutes -- or about 30 seconds after Crouch had fashioned the makeshift tourniquet.
"Generally, you try to meet a 'golden hour' " in getting a trauma victim to the hospital because survival rates are so much higher, firefighter Meredith Dowty said. "He had 'golden seconds.' "
Firefighter Dan Houser replaced the trouser-belt tourniquet with a pressure bandage, and officers and firefighters took turns applying as much pressure to the wound as they could.
"All right, guys, when the ambulance gets here, everyone grab a corner around Derek," a firefighter said. "We're going to lift him up and get him to the back of the ambulance."
The ambulance arrived within seconds, and by the time the two EMS crew members had reached the back of the truck, the officers and firefighters were holding Purcell next to the back doors -- still applying pressure to the wound.
Less than 60 seconds after it arrived, the ambulance was gone. With officers providing an escort and keeping intersections open, the ambulance raced toward Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis Campus.
As the emergency medical service crew worked to restore fluids to Purcell's body, Taylor gently pressed him for details of the suspect and the shooting.
"In case he didn't make it, I wanted to know as much as I could about what had happened," Taylor said.
When Purcell seemed to lose focus, Taylor rubbed his forehead and talked to him to keep him stimulated and alert.
He learned later from the EMS crew that Purcell "was getting real close to the point where they wouldn't have been able to do a lot for him," Taylor said.
Purcell arrived at St. Francis conscious and alert. But he needed blood -- and surgery -- fast.
"The people on the scene had done the right thing for him" in applying pressure to the wound, said Chris Rupe, the surgeon who operated on Purcell.
Within minutes, Purcell was rushed to surgery -- but not before a priest performed the sacrament Anointing of the Sick, commonly known as "last rites."
Just before Purcell went into surgery, an officer whispered to him that the man who shot him had committed suicide.
"I didn't hate the man who shot me," Purcell said. "I was just relieved that they'd found him, and he didn't hurt anyone else."
Purcell had been hit by two 9mm slugs. The bullet that hit him in the left leg went through his body but hit no nerves or blood vessels.
The bullet that hit him in the right leg severed both the femoral artery and the femoral vein, which returns the blood from the leg toward the heart.
"Both of them were completely destroyed," Rupe said. "There was no sight of them.... It was just a mess."
Rupe used a synthetic graft 8 centimeters long to reconnect the femoral artery, but the femoral vein was too damaged to save. Rupe tied off the vein and its smaller connected vessels.
The operation took about three hours. Purcell survived it because medical personnel were able to restore enough blood to his body to stabilize his vital signs, Rupe said.
Purcell survived despite losing perhaps half of the blood in his body.
Purcell's first visitors in the intensive care unit after surgery were his mother and the Rev. Matt McGinness, a friend who was the diocese's director of vocations when Purcell left for the seminary.
"What are you trying to do, be Superman?" McGinness teased him.
The real heroes, Purcell said, are the people who teamed up to save his life: the officers, firefighters and ambulance crew, and the staff at the hospital.
But none of the people involved consider themselves heroic.
"We were doing the same thing he would have done for us," Taylor said. "You just do what you have to do. It was absolutely a group effort."
Taylor was able to visit Purcell the night after he was shot.
"It is unbelievably humbling to have a man thank you for saving his life," Taylor said.
It will take a few months for Purcell's right leg to heal. But there's no physical reason he can't return to his job one day, doctors say.
"I can't wait," Purcell said.
He knows how close he came to death.
"Everything you're doing now is a bonus," he said.
Three days after he was shot, nurses put him in a wheelchair, wheeled him through the hospital and let him sit outside for a little while. It was a clear, warm morning, and he watched orange, purple and red fill the sky as the sun rose.
"God's got a plan," he said. "He's got something else out there for me to do."

Wire Service
 
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