Imagine being shot six times with an AR15 at close range and surviving. That is what happened to Sgt. Katie Lawson from the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Lawson told her story Friday night at the Mexico Public Safety's Police Officers Memorial Week program.
On Aug. 29, 2010, Lawson, (only 27 years old) who was working the third shift, 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., received a call from a county deputy needing assistance. She responded and found the deputy was trying to get a man out of a car. The man was not responding and could not speak English. Two boys and a woman came out of the house nearby. They were the sons and wife of the suspect. They were very helpful and the sons were able to supply some information about their dad. The suspect was arrested for DUI. The county officer told Lawson he could take care of things, so she left the scene.
Lawson said she was driving a short way from where the incident took place and saw a suspicious person in a parking lot and decided to check it out. The man opened fire on her while she was still in the car. He began shooting from about 60 feet and came as close as 20 feet. She began to fire back. She could not see the gun. "I could see the muzzle flash of the gun," said Lawson.
"My leg began to tingle, so I knew I had been shot," Lawson said as she recalled the events from that night. She called for backup and decided to get out of the car to run after the suspect. Once out of the car she could not stand on her leg. Lawson was shot twice in the left side of her buttocks, one bullet slid through her right cheek and through her ear, one bullet hit her vest and pentrated her abdomen just above her belly button taking off the top layer of her skin, but didn't not penetrate. She had the same thing on the left side of her back, and one bullet hit her right calf. In addition to her injuries her body was covered with glass and metal fragments from her vehicle.
Investigation found the suspect shot 26 rounds, 23 hitting Lawson's car and six hitting Lawson. She got off 11 rounds, but did not hit the suspect.
When the police arrived the sons and wife of the man arrested for DUI came out of the house and offered their assistance as witnesses. Further investigation determined the man arrested earlier was an illegal immigrant and his family did not want him deported. It turns out it was the oldest son who visciously attacked Lawson, because he did not want his dad to get in trouble. Officers entered the family's home and found a magazine clip from the gun on a table in the house. They searched further and found the gun under the floor. The case went to trial and the older son was sentenced to life plus 10 years, the younger son was sentenced to three years, the mother was acquitted and the father was deported.
Page 2 of 2 - As Lawson was telling her story she showed a video showing where the shooting took place. Pictures of her wounds were also shown in the video.
Lawson was back to work on light duty four months after the shooting. Six months later she was back patroling the same neighborhood where she was shot. Lawson's chief told her she did not have to go back on patrol and she could move to investigations, but she wanted to return to patrol. "I needed to get back to prove to myself I could still do the job," She also said she did not want the shooter to win or have the incident change her life. Lawson worked as a patrol officer for another year. She is now assigned to a specialized unit within the Operations Bureau in an undercover capacity.
Lawson has been referred to as a hero. "I am not a hero. I give credit to God. He saved my life."
She tells her story hoping to help others who have been shot in the line of duty, as well as their families.
Lawson has received numerous prestigious awards through her agency, including the Purple Heart. She also received the nation's TOP COP award as the recipient of the Citizen's Choice Award.
Also during the evening a fallen officer tribute was presented, a memorial tribute to area officers who have died, and the tolling of the bell presentation honoring lost officers.
The Missouri Military Academy Color Guard presented the colors. Special music was provided by the Mexico Dixie Gray Jazz Band. Kirby and Austin Weber, members of Mexico High School theatre Department gave a presentation titled "Zombie Survivor."
MPSD Chief Susan Rockett presented pins to the five officers who are military veterans. They are: Spc. Robert Grindstaff U.S. Army, Spc. Joshua Davis U.S. Army, Spc. Kevin D. Patrick U.S. Army, Sgt. Jared Gann, U.S. Army and Sgt. First Class Richard C. Ingrum U.S. Army. These men have a total of 60 years military service, 10 overseas deployments, 19 promotions and 14 domestic missions.
Rockett also gave recognition to the seven volunteers for MPSD. They include: Dan Branham, 20 years, Scott Sullivan 11 years, Brian Davis 10 years, Kenny Wyss five years, Shane Brixey five years, Doug Burrows and Phil Wilson four years each.
Maj. Brice Mesko gave recognition to two retiring officers Fire InspectorRussell Blanke and Cpl. Danny Smith.
Brian Pursifull was master of ceremonies for the event and Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs gave the opening remarks, stating residents can rest easy knowing "we have men and women like you who put their lives on the line to make sure we are safe."