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Hero Down: San Diego Police Officer Dan Walters Dies From 16-Year-Old Wounds

San Diego Police Officer Dan Walters was shot in the neck before he was hit by an uninvolved passing motorist.

San Diego, CA – Retired San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Officer Dan Walters died in the line of duty on Thursday due to complications associated with being shot in the neck and hit by a car in 2003.

Officer Walters had been on the force for five years when he and his partner responded to help a fellow officer with a traffic stop at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, 2003, KGTV reported.

They later learned that the officer they went to assist had interrupted a domestic disturbance in progress, and that the suspect had opened fire on him, hitting him in his handcuffs.

But at the time, all Officer Walters saw when he arrived at the scene was a terrified colleague scrambling for cover, he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a 2013 interview.

“As we rolled up, I saw this officer on his hands and knees, desperately crawling for cover with this frightened look on his face and with his gun drawn,” he recalled. “I immediately thought, ‘Oh, s–t!’ and jumped out of the car.”

He ran to the frantic officer just as the suspect closed in on him.

“Here’s this gunman coming directly at me from about 12 to 15 feet with a gun pointed directly at my face,” Officer Walters told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “He didn’t shoot immediately. He kept advancing and stopped at about arm’s length.”

Officer Walters essentially had no time to react.

“In that moment, I decided I wasn’t going to let him just stand there and shoot me in the face, so I lunged for the gun, missed, then grabbed him, attempting to get him to the ground and wait for help,” he recalled. “He put the gun to the back of my neck and fired.”

As he collapsed onto the ground in the middle of 43rd Street, Officer Walters believed that he was going to die.

“I felt nothing,” he said. “I was looking straight up and I again thought: ‘I can’t believe I’m dead.’ Then, it all went black.”

As Officer Walters fell unconscious, his partner opened fire on the shooter, killing him, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Just then, a motorist passed by and inadvertently struck the wounded officer as he was lying in the middle of the roadway.

“They found me with my feet sticking out from under the car,” Officer Walters told The San Diego Tribune.

Two of his cervical vertebrae were crushed, among other injuries, KGTV reported.

He regained consciousness just as additional officers and medical personnel arrived at the scene, and immediately realized that he couldn’t get his body to move.

“I remember them putting me in the ambulance, and I thinking if I can survive this, do I want to live being paralyzed?” Officer Walters told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I was breathing OK, but I couldn’t feel anything below my neck. I couldn’t move a muscle.”

Officer Walters, who was just 37 years old at the time of the attack, never regained use of his legs or his right arm.

He had only minor use of his left arm and hand.

Despite the severity of his injuries, Officer Walters said he still would have run to his fellow officer’s aid if he had it all to do over again.

“I certainly don’t regret being at the scene that night,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Perhaps people were saved because I happened to be there.”

Prior to his career in law enforcement, Officer Walters had a 13-year baseball career as a catcher, KGTV reported.

He was drafted into Major League Baseball (MLB) by the Houston Astros in 1984, and was later traded to the San Diego Padres in 1989.

Officer Walters played a couple more years in the team’s minor league until the gradual degeneration of his spine caused by years of catching ended his career altogether in 1996, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

He underwent a successful spinal surgery and embarked on his goal of becoming a police officer.

Dr. Steve Albrecht said he first met Officer Walter back in 1996 when they worked out together in El Cajon, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“I loved him dearly,” Albrecht told the paper. “He came on the PD with two steel rods in his spine from his baseball injury. He chose to start a tough job that causes most people to retire. It’s so sad and ironic that he made his living with his body, as a pro ball player and a cop, to then get paralyzed.”

Officer Walters, 53, lived in constant physical and emotional pain over the course of the 16-plus years since the shooting.

“He lived through so many serious infections, had to take so many medications…” Albrecht told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I know that he is no longer in pain.”

Although he would never admit it, Officer Walters was “a hell of a motivational speaker,” Albrecht added.

“His best friend on the PD was Chris Wilson, who was killed on duty [in 2010],” he said. “He spoke at Chris’ funeral and you could have heard a pin drop.”

Officer Walters never married and had no children, The San Diego-Union Tribune reported.

His parents have passed away.

Officer Walters leaves behind his sister, Trisha Turner.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of San Diego Police Department Officer Dan Walters, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Officer Dan Walters, your life mattered.

Holly Matkin - April Fri, 2020


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