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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

[MI] Michigan, go bowl for Officer Darnell & his family

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..."Those two officers are heroes," DeWitt Police Chief Larry Jerue said. "They clearly put themselves in harm's way, and did what they needed to do to save the life of the intended victim... A bowl-a-thon to raise money to fly Bill Darnell, his wife and three children to Florida, will be held Tuesday (TODAY) and Friday. The family will stay for a week in a donated condo. The fundraiser, at Pro Bowl, 2122 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., goes from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days...

STAYING IN THE FIGHT: OFFICER REBUILDING LIFE AFTER SHOOTING
Lansing State Journal
Kevin Grasha kgrasha@lsj.com
March 2, 2009

A bullet fired at close range grazed Officer Bill Darnell's forehead.

The muzzle flash from the 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was close enough to burn his skin.

Moments earlier, Darnell surprised the gunman hiding near a first-floor stairway of a DeWitt apartment building.

The next gunshot the 40-year-old DeWitt Township police officer felt was a bullet through his right cheek, shattering at least three teeth and severing an artery in his tongue.

Darnell fell, breaking bones in his face and jaw.

He spent a month at Sparrow Hospital, recovering from the Nov. 6, 2008, shooting - his jaw wired shut, his tongue reconstructed, a breathing tube in his throat. He lost 50 pounds.

The married father of three now is working to rebuild his body and regain his strength so he can return to duty this summer.

Face down on the floor that early November morning and bleeding from the mouth, Darnell somehow pushed himself to his hands and knees.

"I knew that he was going to come back downstairs, and I wasn't ready to give up," he said.

Darnell crawled to the opposite end of the hallway, so there would be distance between himself and the gunman, 47-year-old Nathan Deforest Oakes, who had come to the two-story building on Bridge Street to kill his estranged wife.

As Darnell waited in the hallway, which was illuminated by fluorescent light, he heard gunfire upstairs.

Oakes had reached his arm into the open doorway of Lori Oakes' apartment and fired once at the 38-year-old woman, and at least once at DeWitt police Officer Michael Nunham, according to a report on the shooting issued by Clinton County Prosecutor Chuck Sherman.

Nunham returned fire, and Oakes ran down the stairs.

Darnell fired 13 rounds, likely striking Oakes twice, as Nunham fired several more, striking Oakes four times, according to Sherman's report. The shooting, which left Oakes dead, was deemed legally justified.

"Those two officers are heroes," DeWitt Police Chief Larry Jerue said. "They clearly put themselves in harm's way, and did what they needed to do to save the life of the intended victim."

Nunham said Darnell is a determined individual.

"There's just not an ounce of quit in the guy," Nunham said. "I think that really manifested itself in this situation."

Darnell says he was just doing his job, helping protect a woman whose life was in peril.

"I'm glad it was me (who was shot), rather than her or Officer Nunham," he said. "Given the same circumstances, I'd do the same thing again."

His kids inspire him

Facing death that November morning, Darnell thought of his 5-year-old twin sons and 8-year-old daughter. In 2005, one of his sons battled a rare form of leukemia and his daughter recovered from a malignant brain tumor. Their cancers are in remission.

"They fought at 2 years old and 5 years old. I said to myself, 'I'm shot, I'm moving now - let's go.' "

Darnell remembers being wheeled into the Sparrow Hospital emergency room.

The last thing he recalls is being given medication.

Three days later, Nov. 9, he woke up in the hospital's intensive care unit, unable to speak because of the breathing tube and the damage to his tongue and jaw.

Several tooth fragments were lodged in his left lung.

For a brief time, he considered his career over.

Darnell, who has been a police officer nearly seven years, was working full-time for DeWitt Township and part-time for the city of DeWitt when the shooting happened.

"I asked myself, 'Is it really worth it?' "

Then the cards and letters started coming in. Hundreds. Some from people he didn't know or barely knew.

Among them was a card from a woman he pulled over in a traffic stop about a month before the shooting. The way Darnell handled the situation, the woman wrote, helped her regain trust in police officers.

Darnell's outlook soon changed.

"It reminded me of the reason why I go out there and take the chances that I do," he said.

Officers and deputies from agencies across the area, active and retired, visited.

A fund was set up at a DeWitt bank to help pay for Darnell's medical and living expenses. Thousands of dollars poured in.

There have been numerous fundraisers, said Darnell, who is receiving workers' compensation benefits.

"The appreciation has been overwhelming," he said. "It has driven me - giving me the strength and determination to continue to work to get back."

Darnell said his wife, Ella, supported whichever decision he made. He hopes to return to the township and the city as a road patrol officer in July or August, although that could be delayed depending on the outcome of surgery, scheduled for April, to replace a sinus bone.

DeWitt Township's police chief, Brian Russell, said he, the department's staff and the 14 other full-time officers are looking forward to Darnell's return.

"We're ready whenever he wants to come through the door," Russell said.

Physical toll

Darnell - an avid weightlifter who, in addition to playing football in high school and college, also played two seasons in the mid-1990s in a local amateur football league - arrived at the hospital weighing about 230 pounds.

When he was discharged Dec. 7, he weighed 180 pounds.

He would get winded walking from his living room to his bedroom.

Because his injuries made swallowing difficult, Darnell was on an all-liquid diet - mostly soups and protein shakes - for more than two months.

In mid-January, he decided to end that diet.

"I just couldn't handle it any longer. I knew my body needed more than what I was getting with just liquids," he said.

His first meal: a beef burrito from a local Mexican restaurant.

His jaw still was wired shut, and he couldn't bite into the burrito, so he unwrapped it and scooped out the ground beef.

The wiring finally came off about a week later.

Back at it

In early February, Darnell began physical therapy at the Michigan State University rehabilitation clinic. He also began working out at his local gym, lifting weights, working his abdominal muscles and riding a stationary bicycle.

Darnell, who now weighs about 195 pounds - the new weight includes more muscle than before, he says - estimates he is one-third of the way back.

"I not only want to go back in the same condition I was before the incident, but I want to be better," he said.

A bullet fragment lodged in the back of his neck will always be a reminder of what happened.

"Every day, I strap on that vest and that uniform, knowing there's that possibility I could be shot," he said. "You play the odds - the odds are in your favor that it will never happen - but it happened, and I stayed in the fight. I was injured and did what I had to do."

Additional Facts

Fundraiser this week

A bowl-a-thon to raise money to fly Bill Darnell, his wife and three children to Florida, will be held Tuesday and Friday. The family will stay for a week in a donated condo.

The fundraiser, at Pro Bowl, 2122 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., goes from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.

Participants can ask for pledges per pin or total score. Pledge sheets are available at the Sparrow Hospital and Ingham Regional Medical Center emergency rooms, as well as most fire departments and police departments in the Lansing area. Direct donations also will be accepted.

Pro Bowl has donated part of its space.

Cost is $2 per game for a family; there will be a $1 charge for shoes. All proceeds go toward the fundraiser.

Food and drinks will be provided.

There will be prizes for best score and most pledges.

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20090302/NEWS01/903020333/0/NEWS01

1 comment:

  1. I want to say thank you every police officer in this world for keeping our communities safe.

    ReplyDelete

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