Stay calm. Officer Timothy Sterrett repeated the phrase in his head as he watched blood run down his arms and pool on the ground beneath his hands. Stay calm. The amount of blood he’d lost was life-threatening – he knew keeping his heart rate down was his only chance of survival. Stay calm. The bullet had ripped through his neck and bounced around in the right side of his chest – hitting one of his cervical nerves, two vertebras and shattering two ribs before coming to rest in his right shoulder. Stay calm.
The hours leading up to the shooting had been unremarkable – no omens, no sinking feelings, nothing out of the ordinary – just the usual start to his morning on patrol in Forest Park, Georgia, with a trip to his favorite breakfast spot for some donut holes and a chocolate milk. The call that changed everything seemed innocuous: a male on a motorcycle driving erratically without a helmet on.
The speed at which the call deteriorated was disorienting. The suspect reached toward his waistband. He was heading for a house Sterrett knew he didn’t live in. Sterrett drew his service weapon and shouted repeated commands to stop. As the suspect tried to enter the house, Sterrett moved to block him. He heard a loud “pop” and immediately started falling – blacking out as he returned fire.
When he came to, his attacker was standing over him, pistol in hand. As Sterrett steeled himself for a second bullet – one he knew he wouldn’t survive – the gunman’s attention shifted to something in the distance. Then, miraculously, the suspect fled.
The adrenaline dump numbed the pain, giving Sterrett the strength to get back on his feet. Stay calm. Knowing his assailant was still on the loose, he put pressure on his wound and went after him.