Officer who lost eye returns to duty

The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS, Texas — Senior Cpl. Jerry Poston has many physical reminders of the August morning when he lost his left eye: Shotgun pellets remain lodged in his left eyelid and below his right eye. Still others pockmark his body.

“I’m still the same — one less eye and too many pellets. Too many pellets,” the 17-year Dallas police veteran said Tuesday as the Texas chapter of the Theodore Roosevelt Association honored him with its Police Award.

The organization gives the award annually to a Dallas police officer who has overcome tremendous adversity to return to duty.

“Where a lot of people might not have returned to work, he forged ahead and came back to serve the citizens of Dallas,” said Sgt. Dennis Craig, Cpl. Poston’s friend and former supervisor. “He’s an inspiration to all police officers on the department.”

The deadly shooting rampage that wounded Cpl. Poston began about 2 a.m. Aug. 12 after the gunman, Nick Anthony Salinas, crashed his car into a retaining wall on southbound Interstate 35E near downtown. Before turning the gun on himself, Mr. Salinas fatally shot two men and injured two others, including Cpl. Poston, as they tried to approach the vehicle.

It remains unknown why Mr. Salinas did what he did. Police initially believed that Mr. Salinas, 20, may have been using drugs, but an autopsy report showed that he didn’t have drugs in his system.

Cpl. Poston, 42, who last year was a community policing officer, was nearing the end of an overtime shift when he and his partner responded to what they thought was a routine accident.

But upon arrival, they encountered a confusing scene: Vehicles were scattered, as were the victims. Cpl. Poston’s partner stopped to help an injured man. As Cpl. Poston approached a wrecked vehicle, he saw another man he assumed to be an accident victim.

“That’s when I got shot,” he said. “The guy shot me from inside his car through the window.”

The pellets struck Cpl. Poston’s left eye and probably would have taken his right eye, too, had he not been holding a microphone up to his face with his right hand as he asked dispatchers to send more help.

As he was crawling to his squad car, another shot rang out: This time, shotgun pellets ripped through his right thigh.

“Then I heard a third gunshot, and it was the suspect killing himself,” Cpl. Poston said.

After five months of painful recuperation and several surgeries, he returned to work in January as a detective. He still yearns to return to work as a patrol officer.

“It’s what I’m comfortable doing,” Cpl. Poston said. “It’s just what I do.”

Copyright 2008 The Dallas Morning News

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