Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Katie Lawson is lucky to be alive.
On Aug. 29, 2010, she was ambushed in her patrol car, with 23 rounds entering the police car.
She was shot six times.
Today, she shares her story of resilience with others in law enforcement in an effort to help officers who encounter incidents or dangers on the job.
Lawson spoke to a group of Pottawatomie County sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officers from this area at Gordon Cooper Technology Center recently. Local judges, prosecutors and dispatchers were also among those attending the presentation.
Her story has been shared all over the country to provide officers who work the streets with a lifesaving mental resilience to face anything.
Lawson, who has returned to work as an Oklahoma City police officer, spoke of the night she was assisting an Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy with a DUI arrest.
As she was leaving that scene, she noticed a man standing in a parking lot.
“He turns on me and all I remember seeing is a long barrel … and he just started shooting,” she said.
She said she had tunnel vision and locked in on the muzzle flashes. He was walking toward her car, still shooting.
“I just remember thinking 'I've got to get my gun out,'” she said, and she started returning fire until he fled.
Instinct kicked in and she tried to get out run after him. But she couldn't — she had been shot and said it felt like she had bricks on her feet.
She didn't know it, but her first radio call for help was covered up by another call. So as she was expecting back-up to arrive, it was quiet.
Using her handheld radio, she called dispatch again, saying, “I've been shot,” and telling them the suspect was running and that she needed an ambulance — “fast.”
She candidly told local officers about those moments and her fear that if she passed out, she might not ever get up again. She told the officers they have to be ready to take care of themselves.
“You're going to be there in the fight for your own life,” she said.
The suspect would end up being the son of the man arrested from the DUI call just a block from where she was, she said.
The investigation concluded that the suspect fired 26 rounds at her – 23 of them were inside her car and six hit her. She fired 11 rounds from her weapon, but none caught up with him before he disappeared.
Although she had numerous injuries, her bulletproof vest — and her determination not to give up — saved her life.
“I'm very thankful for it,” she said about the vest. “I believe God will give you the grace you need when you need it.”
She spoke directly to the officers about the importance of continuing training. And when things happen to other law enforcement officers, she encouraged them to run through the same scenarios of what they would do in that situation and to always be ready for anything.
She said there are three options — fight, flight or freeze.
“The first thing that came to mind was to get my gun and shoot back,” she said. “Don't freeze.”
And it all happened so fast — in less than a minute.
“I did not even feel the pain of being shot,” she added.
Even with all she endured, she said she never doubted wanting to go back to patrol the third shift. After her recovery, and with help from her family and police family, she was able to return to the job she loves.
“We never know what we face when going to work,” she said, reminding officers to always tell their family that they love them.
Sheriff Mike Booth said Lawson's experience and advice helped a local deputy when he faced a critical incident, so they wanted Lawson to share her story with other local officers as part of ongoing training.
“When we walk out of here, we don't know what's going to happen,” the sheriff said, adding they all need all training and knowledge they can get.