Friday, March 3, 2017

Officer Down!

I remember it like it was yesterday.

My wife and I just had our second child.  She was a healthy baby girl, and a happy moment for all.  My parents were coming in town to spend time with us during this week.  My Mom was already there and my Dad would follow shortly after wrapping up work business back in Indiana.  Everything went textbook, and we took baby home from the Hospital.

Three days after my daughter was born, my Mother and I were out walking around the block with my oldest daughter when she got a phone call that literally stopped her in her tracks.  I knew something was wrong by the tone of her voice and the expression of shock and terror on her face.  She ended the phone call and just blurted out, "Jason was shot".  My brother, a police officer in Indiana had been shot in the head.  She said my Dad told her he was stable though.  This didn't make any sense to me.  As a cop myself I knew any gunshot wound was not stable, let alone one to the head, so I quickly called my Dad back to get more details.

Apparently the details were lost in translation from point A to point C, and my brother was not in stable condition.  No, he was going to die.  The bullet went straight through his brain, in the front and out the back.  He was in dire straits and it couldn't come at a worse time.  My Mom packed up her things and drove three hours back to Indiana and I stayed home.  I wanted to go, but Swede made me feel a lot of guilt for even thinking of it.  How selfish I was to contemplate leaving her with a newborn baby and our other daughter all alone while I went off to Indy.  So I rationalized it and stayed there with her and continued to get updates.

My brother made it out of surgery and now the real trial would begin.  Over the next 72 would determine if he would live or die, as the brain could swell as a result from the trauma and kill him.  I was stuck at home, tending to my wife and kids, relying on updates and not being there in person for support.  That night though, there was a knock at my door.  My precinct Sergeant, along with officers from the county I lived in, were at my door.  My sergeant hadn't known if I knew yet about my brother, but I informed him I was aware.  He didn't give me any options, and just told me to grab a change of clothes and let's go.  This gave me my out, and there was no argument from my wife about it.  My Sergeant drove me to Indy that night, where I would join my family in support while we all waited for the worst news.
The man convicted of shooting Jason.

The next morning, things had gone well, and Jason was doing as good as he could.  I was driven back
to Ohio to pick up my wife and kids, then back to Indy to be with family.  It was a time of great conflict and solidarity.  I was taken to the scene where my brother had been shot, and relived that moment as if I were there.  The community rallied behind my brother, and provide monetary and emotional support.  The bad guy was in jail, but my brother was still hanging on to life by a thread.

It was during these moments that caused me to reflect upon my life.  I realized I should have never left my home town.  I blamed my wife for forcing me to leave.  Had I not left, I would have waited for this department to hire me, and my brother and I would have rode together.  This ordeal may never have happened if I had stayed.  I felt a great deal of responsibility in this because I left, and wasn't there for him.  Now, he was on the verge of death, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Eventually, Jason survived the incident, but he would never be the same.  He would forever be marred by this injury and be forced to retire.  Jason was partially paralyzed, as the gunshot wound forced 15% of his brain to be removed, and a prosthetic skull was made to cover half his head.  Jason now has the mentality of a 13 year old, or even younger at times.  My brother, the one that I knew, died.  What was left was a different person all together.  Our relationship would not be the same, and I cursed myself for not developing a better relationship with him before this incident.  I blamed my wife, and my church for that.

As a faithful Mormon, I couldn't condone some of the behaviors my brother took part in.  My wife was quick to point out his flaws and how I couldn't allow him to be a negative force in my life.  So, even when we lived in Indy, I didn't spend a lot of time with him, because I was a dutiful Mormon, and his example was that opposed to the Church's teachings.  Now, I was filled with regret for how I treated him, and knew I would never get the opportunity to build this relationship with my brother.  When he came to, he was different.  His childlike mentality caused him to draw closer to the Church, and do everything our Father would condone.  He was like a child, and as such, leaned unto our Father's influence as the gospel truth.  I was angry, and conflicted, but relieved my brother didn't die.

My life from here took a downward spiral, of which it would never recover.  I've heard it said before, that often a traumatic experience is needed to shock somebody into a new way of thinking.  Usually, this is in reference to finding God.  In my case, I was going to lose Him.  My wife was no support, and a new baby wasn't saving anything.  My marriage continued to be strained to the point I could no longer emotionally or physically withstand temptations embrace.  I was bound to happen eventually, and finally it did.

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