Cops thankful result of first officer shooting not worse
The recent shooting that left Woodbury police Sgt. Omar Maklad injured marked a somber first for the department.
Police Chief Lee Vague said that was the first time a Woodbury officer was shot while on duty. Vague said public safety officials were relieved that Maklad's injuries were not more severe and that he is expected to make a full recovery.
That wasn't clear in the moments after the April 15 shootout.
"I got a page that you never want to get as a police chief," Vague recalled. "I got an 'officer down' page that came across my phone. That's a tough thing to hear. I hope it's something I never have to hear again."
As state authorities continue to investigate the shooting, Vague said he was grateful for the response of fellow officers and the community. All 12 Woodbury officers on duty at the time responded to the shooting scene, so Washington County sheriff's deputies handled other calls in the city in the hours after the incident. Other agencies helped at the scene, and St. Paul police officers greeted Maklad's ambulance at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
"It's something that you always know is there and you never can truly appreciate it until you have an incident like this," Vague said of law enforcement's support of his department.
The shooting happened very quickly, but it may take some time for the officers involved to work through the emotional toll of that experience, Vague said.
It is standard practice for officers involved in a shooting to meet with a psychologist before returning to work. Even if their experience was not traumatic, simply being involved in an officer shooting can bring back memories of difficult cases from the past, Vague said.
"If you're on a call for something like this, it can be very traumatic, it can have a real profound effect on you," he said.
All of the officers involved are being given as much paid time away from work as they need, Vague said. Some cops want that time, while others are ready to get back to work.
There are 65 officers in the Woodbury Police Department.
The recent shooting also marked just the second time in the city's 43-year history that a police officer fatally shot a suspect.
The first incident occurred in June 2000 and, like last week's case, started with a domestic disturbance call.
In the earlier case, two Woodbury officers had responded to the home of 42-year-old Perry Parks on a report of a domestic altercation involving an intoxicated man.
The officers met with Parks in his home. A struggle broke out and police said Parks partially removed a gun from the holster of one officer. The other officer shot Parks once, killing him.
Parks' relatives questioned the need for deadly force and disputed the police summary of the incident. A grand jury reviewed the evidence and cleared the officers of wrongdoing. Parks' family later filed wrongful death lawsuits, which were dismissed in appellate court.
Vague said he relied on those two officers - Jeff Gottstein and Michael Pomeroy - in the hours after last week's shooting. Neither was on duty at the time of the shooting, but both assisted afterward.
"They were just invaluable that night," Vague said. "They were the resource that I kept going to."
Public safety officials contacted Woodbury City Council members shortly after Maklad was shot.
"Hopefully it never happens again," Mayor Bill Hargis said.