Warning: this is a long one. Lots of words, several pictures, and some blood.
Sunday, May 06, 2012 was a most interesting day, to say the least. I played the organ in church, during which time I was sorely tempted to play just the melody and then leave. I stuck it out, but not very willingly. So many mistakes. Ryan didn't go to church with us to hear my very interesting organ playing because he had been called out the night before for a DUI turnover. At least, I think that's what it was. He came to church for the last hour to teach the Young Men. The kids and I waited for him to come out of the church building, where a very handsome (if I do say so myself) Ryan came out to tell us good-bye. I can say that I thought he was especially hot because even my daughters said so. Kacy said, "Dad looks good today." Jessie, who is so hilarious now but scares me a little for her teen years and beyond, rolled down her window and yelled, "You are looking good, Dad!" Then she asks me, "Doesn't Dad look handsome today?"
We (minus Ryan, who must work) go to the Bunting's for family dinner. It was Jocelyn's birthday dinner, where I over stuffed myself on ribs and strawberry pie. Had a good conversation with Lindsey. Played outside with Pearl and the kids.
Jessie had her first sleep over at David and Lindsey's with Sarah. When Jessie got in the car we said our good-byes, and then (Lindsey told me this) she leaned over to Sarah and said, "I just love her." Ah, a moment worth recording...made me feel all warm and fuzzy for several days.
The three other kids and I loaded up in the car, and off we went to go home. We hit HWY 178 and Comanche, and Will asks me, "Hey Mom, what would happen if Dad got shot?" Our conversation went a lot like this:
"Well, it depends on where he got shot. Some shots just put holes in you, some can be fixed with surgery, and some will kill you," I reply. I don't mince words. I don't pretend it cannot possibly happen. I just don't. I've always had a back-up plan in my head, "just in case."
"So, what would happen if he got shot in the hand?" he asks.
"He would have a hole in it. Or it would slice it open and it would have to be stitched up."
"What about his vest? What would happen if he got shot in the vest?"
"The vest is made of this special fabric called Kevlar. It stops bullets from getting to your body. The bullet still hurts a ton, like getting hit with a hammer, but it can't hurt you besides maybe some bruising."
"What about the rest of your body? Like your head or leg?" asks Kacy.
So I finish this conversation about different parts of the body with the different scenarios, ending with brain injuries and frontal lobes... and no, it didn't seem weird to me at the time to have this conversation. My kids know Ryan carries a gun, wears a vest, and sometimes takes people to jail. To me, it was just another interesting Sunday conversation we have in the car on those long trips without a working radio in the car.
We got home, went to bed, and three hours after this conversation took place, Ryan called me to tell me he had been shot. Now, he says he was all nonchalant and calming, and I can honestly say I don't really remember much about his phone call. I remember looking at the time on the phone (it said 11:25) and that it was "Ryan's Cell" and thinking that was weird. I remember that he was out of breath sounding and I could tell he was amped up. I remember him saying "I've been shot but I'm fine. I took one in the hand and in the vest, but I'm fine. I wanted to call you before Sargent Romine called." I remember me wanting to swear (with a Holy in front of "it") but instead said "Holy crap, the kids and I were just talking about this!" Then I don't really remember, but I'm pretty sure he said something about sitting tight for a bit and he would call me to let me know more. So I did.
Actually, after about 60 seconds, I called Ryan's dad on his cell. He is a reliable cell phone answerer. I told him, "Ryan has been shot, but he is okay. One in the hand, one in the vest. That's all I know." Then I called my parents. Then, I went out to the big house and put on some clean jeans, a sweatshirt, and fixed my hair a little. Yes, I did. I wasn't going to the hospital in my jammies. I also made the conscious decision to wear my running shoes instead of flip flops. It was important to me at the time. Weird? After getting dressed, I started making more phone calls. I called my grandma, because I knew she would be up late. I called Jocelyn and Oscar, thinking they would want to know (hoping not to wake up their kids...but I think they were watching Korean soaps!) I called cousin David, because he's a late owl and I knew he would tell his family. Then I realized that Michael (my brother in law) and Mike (his graveyard partner and my cousin's man) were working and would have heard the radio traffic. I called him, hoping he could give me more information. Why didn't I call Ryan? Because I'm a good wife. Lol. I know not to bug or ask too many questions in certain situations, and this was a situation in which Ryan would need me to be a rock. If I called to bug him, it would just add another burden to him, and I didn't want him to worry about me. So I call for intel from my spies! Turns out Michael was already with him. The Michaels (as we lovingly refer to them) were working their beat on the East side of Bakersfield and Michael drove as fast as he ever has up the canyon. When I call Michael, he tells me they are going to take Ryan to KMC, but that they are still on the side of the road. He told me it was "a back seat shooter." See, in my mind, CHP officers get into shootings when a stop goes bad, or a situation is escalated and control is lost. Ryan is awesome (if I do say so myself) and situations just don't get escalated. In fact, he often helps other officers diffuse tense incidents. So, I was trying to figure out "how" Ryan got shot.
About an hour later, Ryan (or was it Michael?) called (or did I call one of them? I have no idea right now) and I woke up the kids to take them to Bakersfield. Cherie said she would meet me at the hospital and take the kids. I woke them up, telling them, "Hey, we need to go to Bakersfield. Dad got shot. He's okay, but we need to go get him at the hospital." One of the kids (not Ed, who was super hard to wake up) said, "Hey, we just talked about that!" We loaded up, and headed down. We made it to KMC and were met in the parking lot by David, David, Jimmy, Michael M. (I think), and Michael F. We were taken inside the back way, and when we got there, we saw this:
and we looked like this (thank-you cousin David for sharing):
As we were leaving the hospital, (I think it was about 3:30am at this point), David (dad) says, "They think it was a MAC-10, an automatic weapon." My heart sank a little, still not knowing exactly what happened. Shoot, I didn't know anything, really. I got in my car to follow the officers and unmarked cars to the CHP office in Bakersfield.
So, fast forward 15 minutes, and I'm at the CHP office with a ton of officers and plain clothes people, Ryan, the Captain, Chief... and Michael. I start to get the full story. I'm still so high on adrenalin that the magnitude of it all doesn't really sink in for a few hours. I'm fascinated with the way the investigation goes, and since it was an officer involved shooting, the Union guys are there making sure Ryan is represented. They give him a little card with his rights on it, he glances at it and sets it down. He says, "I'm good. It was a good shoot."
Here's what happened, and you can take my reporting over anything you heard or read. I've got the times from the actual radio traffic call. I'm still estimating times, but I'm more accurate.
Ryan was sitting in his patrol car (an old one, not his Durango or Expedition, as they both bit the dust a few weeks prior), on the shoulder of Westbound HWY 178 at Borel Rd. On a Sunday night at 11:10, this is a desolate road with only minimal traffic. Very rural. As he was sitting there with his radar unit on, a dark blue Yukon, mid 2000's model with 24" rims and low profile tires passed him going westbound. They slowed, made a U-turn and crossed over the double yellow lines, heading for Ryan. (The roadway is four lanes, two in each direction.) Ryan flipped on his high beams and spotlight, because he thought they were coming to ask him directions or something, and since they were crossing double yellows, he wanted to discourage them. As they approached, the back passenger window rolled down, and a passenger in the back open fired on Ryan. Ryan ducked down to the middle of the car, realized that if he stayed there he would be shot in the back of the head, and then took action. He's a big guy and in a little car, it was a tight squeeze. His gun is on his right hip (and he was leaning that way initially) so to draw, he had to arch up. As he did so, he put his left hand on the driver side window to help balance himself. That's when they got his hand (and his window shot out). As he was turning his torso and squaring up, he got shot in the chest. It hit his trauma plate, which is over his heart. He then fired 7 times from the A pillar to the B pillar. (Think: from the steel part of the car between the windshield and the driver side window, and the metal part between the front driver window and the back driver side window.) The shooter stopped shooting as soon as Ryan began. He is confident that he hit the shooter in the forehead. He saw his forehead change, his body stiffen, and then slump forward. The car sped up as soon as Ryan started shooting. Ryan tried to go after them, but he had a flat tire, and glass was flying everywhere. Ryan said he thought the bullet that hit his chest had gone through, because his vest was really high (from the slouching) and it knocked the wind out of him. He said he let out a huge sigh of relief when he felt the slug embedded in his vest.
We stayed at the Bakersfield office until 6:30am. Ryan wore home some scrubs because they took his uniform as part of the evidence. The hole in his shirt from the bullet was weird to see. I've seen blood on his uniform a few times...other people's blood. We went to his parent's house where the kids were. We had some breakfast and answered the many, many phone calls, texts, and emails. It got to the point where we both just stopped answering. Ryan's parent's phone was ringing off the hook, too. The funniest phone calls were to Ryan, and they would call and say something like, "I heard one of you guys got shot. Who was it?" and then Ryan would answer it was him, and he said it would be silent on the other end for a really long pause, followed by a "What?" Clay F. came over that morning. We had missed his birthday party the weekend before. Too bad we got caught up on such crazy terms.
We stayed at his parent's house most of the day, not wanting to come back to the trailer. We went to get Jessie at David's and stayed there a bit longer, making sure everyone was nice and tired. When we finally got home, Ryan slept like a log. He actually fell asleep on the kitchen counter in the house while I was showering our stinky kids. I didn't sleep that well that night. I kept waking up thinking, "Ryan has been shot." But, I would tell myself it was fine, because he was right here. It was like my subconscious was fighting my conscious. It was annoying.
THE NEXT FEW DAYS:
I tried to go to my board meeting, but I was so exhausted I couldn't concentrate. I left early. First time I realized that I was affected by what happened. Started having a small emotional break down in the five minutes it took to pick up the kids. I didn't like being lonely. Ryan had been in Bakersfield most of the day at the doctor and then at the KCSO headquarters doing a composite sketch.
I made a lot of return phone calls. We are still getting a lot of comments from people (had two yesterday and one today...) A lot of people are treating us very carefully and looking at us with puppy dog eyes. That part is a little annoying, too. We are fine. We were fine. The whole drive-by aspect of it really has our community freaked out. I still might be oblivious about it, or in denial, or SOMETHING...but I am truly not bothered. Truly. Ryan isn't. I recognize our Heavenly Father's hand in all of this, and I'm grateful He saw fit not to make me a widow. Ryan was prepared for this situation. He was protected and prepared. That's a winning combination!
I had one more minor melt down after I dropped off the kids and the dog to leave for Reno. Again, I hadn't seen Ryan for the day and the kids weren't around me...and my brain started wandering. It went to that place where I am a single mom and the kids don't have Ryan in their lives... but that is too painful to dwell on, and I talked myself out of it. I reminded myself that there is absolutely no need to go there, because he is fine, and he is here, so it's a waste of energy.
We went to Reno, and that fixed everything. A full weekend of complete anonymity and not answering phone calls was just the perfect thing. We spent the whole weekend together, no doctor's appointments, no investigation things (okay, a few phone calls, but not too bad), no phone calls. By the time we got back, it was like it didn't even happen. It was perfect.
The worst part for me: nothing. Maybe my lost brain activity for a week or so. Lack of sleep and inability to concentrate. That's gone.
The worst part for Ryan: the attention. The way people call him a "hero" or "brave." He says he didn't do anything brave or heroic, he just saved his own skin. He said everything he did was selfish. (I disagree a little. He was brave...he had the presence of mind and the awesome ability to shoot, and did so at the right time.)
The worst thing for the kids: Kacy and Will said they are nervous for him to go back to work. Jessie is preoccupied with "bad guys" and why they would shoot her dad, and now she wants to be a cowgirl-police girl who flies helicopters to catch bad guys. Will wanted to take a picture to school for show and tell because his friend Seth would never believe him. Ed was most bothered in the hospital, but since Ryan is up and around, he's been fine with it. No nightmares for any one. No worries, really. I credit that to the fact that we had that conversation in the car right before it happened.
I have seen our Heavenly Father's hand in all of this. I'm grateful Will asked the questions that started our conversation. I think that helped the kids. I'm grateful for Ryan's safety. I'm grateful Ryan called me himself before his sergeant did. I'm grateful Michael was able to hang out with me at the CHP office, and that he stayed with Ryan during the ambulance ride down the mountain. Him being there made it better for me- I wasn't stuck in the office with a bunch of people I didn't know. I'm grateful Jessie was at Sarah's house and not at the hospital. I'm grateful we had our trip to Reno planned. It really worked out well.