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'Thankful to be here'

Deputy recounts being shot, rescued

Deputy recounts being shot, rescued

February 27, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Cpl. Ronald Fletcher recalls three shots being fired at him.

He remembers the thoughts that ran through his mind as he laid bleeding in a hallway.

And he recalls his rescue by three emergency responders, which he said was "beyond words."

In a telephone interview Monday from his hospital room at Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department deputy detailed the incident in which he was wounded last week in a Ranson, W.Va., home.

The four-year veteran of the department is expected to be released from the hospital today and return home, officials said.

Fletcher was shot inside a home at 74 Orchard Drive in the Orchard Hills subdivision Feb. 19 after responding to a call for a man trying to break into the house through a back door, police said.

Fletcher was rescued from the house by two police officers and a paramedic, but the man, Dorsey Cox, would not leave, leading to a six-hour standoff with police.

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Cox died while being taken to a hospital, but it was not clear if his injury was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot or shots fired from police.

Police were called to the Orchard Drive home for a burglary in progress and Cox was observed taking toolboxes out of the house, West Virginia State Police said.

Fletcher said he and Deputy Pat Smith responded to the house, and Smith went to the rear while Fletcher stayed at the front of the house.

Fletcher said he drew his gun and told Cox to put down the items. Fletcher said Cox went into the house and he followed him inside.

Cox ran into a bedroom and slammed the door, said Fletcher, adding that he could hear children crying. Cox later released two young children from the house.

Fletcher said he kicked in the door, entered the room and encountered Cox.

"All I can remember is three shots. I just went backward," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said he fell in a hallway and laid facedown. He said everything went through his mind, including how long he would be there and if he could reach his gun.

Fletcher said Cox took his police radio. Officials said that Cox used the radio to talk with police.

"He said, 'Don't move. Don't move. I just laid there and he kicked my feet. I guess to see if I was alive or not," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said he called out for help at one point as police and rescue personnel began gathering outside.

Police were able to convince Cox to allow authorities to enter the house to rescue Fletcher. Ranson Police Chief Bill Roper used a shield for protection while Charles Town Police officer Sam Smith and paramedic Sean McCarthy pulled Fletcher out of the house.

"It was beyond words. It was like a weight lifted off you," Fletcher said.

Although deputies are required to wear vests to protect them from gunfire, Fletcher was not wearing his when he responded to the house. Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober said he thinks Fletcher's injuries would have been less serious had the officer been wearing his vest.

Fletcher said he was used to not wearing his vest because of his recent work at Jefferson High School as a prevention resource officer.

"It was just one of those days I went out and didn't put it on. I regret it," Fletcher said.

It was first believed that Fletcher was shot three times but Boober later said Fletcher was shot twice. Fletcher said it is now believed that he was shot three times: twice in the upper left torso and once in the left arm.

Fletcher underwent surgery to repair damage to his left shoulder that involved putting a metal rod in his upper arm, officials said.

Officials have been surprised by Fletcher's recovery, and Fletcher said doctors are preparing to release him today to return home.

Fletcher said he will have physical therapy about three times a week at a facility in Winchester, Va., and it is unclear how long it might be before he returns to work.

When asked if the shooting caused him to question his career in law enforcement, Fletcher said he pondered it some. But he decided that he would not do anything different if he could do it all over again.

"It's my life. It's what I want to do," Fletcher said.

Police across Jefferson County were notified Monday that Fletcher is expected to come home today and the news was happily accepted among Fletcher's friends and peers.

"That's one of the best calls I've had in a while," Boober said Monday afternoon.

Lt. Dave Colbert of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said at least he and Boober will be traveling to Washington to pick up Fletcher.

"Everyone's interested and wants to help out," Colbert said.

Fletcher is well-known through his police work and his volunteer work at the Citizens Fire Co., and the officer said he received boxes of letters from people who were concerned about him.

"It's amazing the outpouring from the community. I'm just thankful to be here. I was lucky," Fletcher said.

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