October 04, 2006 News & Features » Cover Story


Gary Horner Jr., 33 

click to enlarge horner200x.jpg

Virginia State Police Sergeant

Shot: Nov. 24, 2002

Where: At the I-64 West rest area in New Kent.

think I was two or three nights into the midnight shift rotation, and I came out like any other night. I actually came out early because there was a wreck right up from my home. I was doing just regular patrol at that time; it was a Sunday night. I didn't know how long it had been since the rest area had been checked, but as I pulled in I could look down to my right — it used to be a densely wooded area in between the two parking lots.

As I looked in there, in the shadows there appeared to be somebody lying down in the woods. There was no benches and no picnic area down in there; it was actually a closed-off area. Also given the atmospheric conditions that night — it was the coldest night we'd had so far — it was right near freezing ... being late November. [All] those things weighed on my mind — it was more a welfare check at this point.

I parked the car and called in and told the dispatcher that I was going to be doing a welfare check. As I go down there's an asphalt path that led the way down toward the area where this person is … and there's sticks and twigs all over the path. As I go down I'm trying to make plenty of noise because I don't want to startle this individual. You know, you think about yourself if you were sleeping and someone just came up on you. I paused for a minute — there was no breathing, no movement. I got within a few feet.

That's when the subject looked at me, rolled his head back and looked at me. Our conversation went on for half a minute or so. At the beginning of the conversation he said he was a poor man and didn't have a place to stay. But he did tell me he had a car, so I told him he could get in the car and stay in the car. I told him, you just can't stay out in the public view.

He just lay there and looked at me. So I asked him again and I got the same response. At that point, I told him I needed to see some ID from him. His hands were once visible because he was kind of laying on his side looking up at me, but he dove both of his hands down into his sleeping bag, and that's when I just gave him the command, let me see his hands, let me see his hands, and I was moving over towards some trees close by.

Immediately then is when he produced a pistol, pointed it and just started firing before he even left the sleeping bag with it. That's the point I drew my pistol and [started] firing back.

We actually had two engagements of fire. The first one was close-up — probably six feet. There was a lull in the firing, and I had gotten back to cover probably 20 to 30 feet away. During that [lull] I had reloaded my firearm and tried to get in touch with my dispatcher and tell them I was involved in a shooting. During that, I saw him point the firearm at me, taking aim again, and that's when I … raised my firearm and it was over after that.

All my hits were during the first engagement — seven times. A range of emotions will come across. At first it was a matter of a little disbelief, but it quickly went into survival.

I had one right here [gestures toward head]. It kind of grazed in across my skull, tore off my ear. And I had the one that hit my vest — that hit me right here [gestures to shoulder] — and hit the vest, and stopped. I had one in the lower part of the vest right in the abdomen area, that penetrated the vest [perforating his bowels and breaking off a piece of pelvic bone]. I had a grazing wound on my right arm. I had one in my back that the vest had stopped. I had one that came in and grazed my chest as I was turning. And then one just below the beltline below the vest went into the spine.

Between the one in the front and the one that went into the spine, [that] caused all of the damage. My whole left side went numb — that's when I knew that I was hit. At first it was like burning fire. Like someone lit your [left] leg on fire. Pretty intense.

That was several months in physical therapy. I lost the feeling. You imagine like walking stairs, everyone takes for granted — you know the stair is there, you can kind of sort of feel it before you touch. When you don't have the feeling there, you don't know how much pressure to put on it.

[The shooter] was struck during the first engagement several times. During the second one was when he was killed. I don't remember what I was told, but it was somewhere between 11 and 14 times. I don't remember exactly.

I was a trooper before. I'd be a trooper tomorrow. I fought really hard to stay doing what I'm doing. My wife [Terry] was there with me the whole time, and without her I would not have made it through. S

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