It had only taken fifty-six seconds to go through the entire incident from the moment I received a description of the armed robbery suspects to the moment when I called for an ambulance because I had shot a man.
After those brief fifty-six seconds, I was no longer the man who had first joined the police service. I now had a different perspective, based on hard-earned experience that I never had before. I became a changed man and I lost who I had once been.
I had hit a solid wall that I could not go through or pretend did not exist. Although I tried to circle back to find my original path in life, I couldn’t. I now needed to learn how to continue my journey through life differently than how I had started. I now had the added weight of those fifty-six seconds of experience and memories as part of who I had now become.
Not everyone who is involved in a fatal or near-fatal incident suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder. I have spoken to many officers, who have had to shoot a suspect, and some were able to walk away unscathed, knowing that they had done the job expected of them. For there to be a trauma, there has to be a shock factor of some sort. There has to be an unexpected component that jars the involved person out of their ability to control their view of life.
For me, it was making a decision to react a certain way, based on a mix of a split-second accumulation of facts and assumptions. The end resulted in a man dying. His death was based on assumptions I made from his actions during the incident. However, what he appeared to be doing at the time was not, in fact, what I had interpreted his actions to be. As a result, I experienced shock and post-shooting trauma.
It has taken me twenty-five years to share my story and this has not been easy to do. I have written this to help others understand the healing process and the steps I took, which have helped me to survive and which are now part of who I am.
This is my story of how it happened to me and how it can happen to you.