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BY STAN FINGER

The Wichita Eagle

One bullet went through the police officer's left leg and lodged in the wall of a nearby house.The other bullet tore into the femoral artery and a major vein in his right leg, and authorities say he would have bled to death if not for the quick actions of other officers.

But those wounds aren't the ones most likely to linger the longest for the officer shot twice in the line of duty the night of July 11 in west Wichita, law enforcement officials say.
"The physical scars, they'll go away after a short
time," said Lt. Sam Hanley, head of the Police Department's Critical Incident Stress Management Team, which works with officers who have been through traumatic events. "But the mental scars, they'll be with you as long as you live.
"It's a life-altering experience -- something they will never forget."
The department does not keep statistics on the number of officers shot in the line of duty, spokesman Gordon Bassham said.
Two have been shot this year, and two others were wounded last year.

'Take your time'
Every time he walks into a Wal-Mart, Officer Chris McGrath flashes back to that day in May 1989 when he was shot twice by a man in the Wal-Mart at Pawnee and Broadway.
"I realized how quick it could have gone the opposite way -- me being killed," he said. "I enjoy life now... and I make sure I am ready to give 110 percent on the job, compared to coming in, 'Oh, it's just another day at the office.' It might be the last one."
One of the bullets hit him in the hip and broke off the top of his femur. He underwent six surgeries and will one day need a hip replacement.
"It's just every day -- my knee hurts, my hip hurts .. ," McGrath said. "I've got to watch what I do whether I'm on or off duty. It was quite an experience."
McGrath sat in the wounded officer's hospital room last week and talked with him for six hours about what he went through in his recovery -- physically, mentally and emotionally.
Police are not releasing the wounded officer's name for security reasons.
"I told him, 'Don't hurry back. Take your time,' " McGrath said. "'Ask yourself if this is what you want to go through again if it comes up.' "

Self-examination
Capt. Joe Dessenberger, commander of the Patrol West bureau, where the wounded officer is assigned, said other officers realize "it could have just as easily been them in his position at that time."
"You see young officers with families and young children -- you can kind of see the doubt in their eyes," Dessenberger said. "'What if something happened to me? What would happen to my family?' "
As a young officer, "you feel like Superman, and you're not," McGrath said. "You can go down real quick."
McGrath had been on the force for two years when he was shot by Aaron Coleman in the crowded Wal-Mart. Coleman was shot to death by Officer Darrell Atteberry. Wal-Mart employees had called police, fearing that Coleman would harm himself or others.
Lying in his hospital bed, McGrath told himself he wouldn't let the injury derail his career. One thing he told the wounded officer, McGrath said, is "If you love the job, get back out there and do it."
That's just what the officer wants to do, Dessenberger said.
"We're not going to be able to hold him down," Dessenberger said. "He's ready to come back."

A changed person
The officer is recovering from his wounds so quickly that he could be released from the hospital within days, Dessenberger said. But it could be several months before he returns to duty.
Officers aren't cleared to return to active duty until the critical incident stress team determines that they're physically, emotionally and mentally ready, Dessenberger said. The team continues to monitor the officers after they're back at work.
No matter how hard they may work to heal and return to normal, police officials say, officers who are wounded in the line of duty are different once they come back to work.
"You're certainly more cautious," said Lt. Jeff Weible, who was attacked by a man with a knife years ago while he was working in the narcotics section.

'A constant reminder'
Chief Norman Williams has been shot three times in his law enforcement career -- experiences that he said changed him as an officer and as a person.
"I have a deeper appreciation for the gift of life and a stronger commitment to God," he said.
Williams and fellow officer Paul Holmes were each shot twice at the Institute of Logopedics on Jan. 30, 1980, by a man who was convinced his wife was having an affair.
The officers shot back and fatally wounded 31-year-old Bradford Howell.
"We knew he had a gun under his coat -- you could see the butt of the gun," Williams said. "We felt we could subdue him before he could unzip his coat and reach for his gun.
"What we did not calculate was that he already had a gun in his pocket.... When he took his hands out, he came out shooting."
Williams was hit in the groin and the right leg, and was off duty for about six months. He was also hit in the right leg by a stray bullet during a brawl at a nightclub in 1977.
Williams didn't feel comfortable handling domestic violence calls for almost a year after his return to duty. He pays closer attention to detail than before he was shot.
"When I make a disturbance call, I want to see your hands," Williams said. "No hands in your pants pocket. No hands in your coat pocket.
"If I don't see your hands real quick, you're going to be staring down the barrel of a gun."
All three bullets are still in his body.
"They are a constant reminder -- particularly when it's cold outside."
 
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