Veteran Griffin police Lt. Curtis Keys isn't making a political statement about gun control, he is making a factual one. And he knows, now, all too well the damages guns can do firsthand.
With watery eyes in a bright Georgia sun, Keys sat down with CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska. The 12-year veteran officer discussed the ever-growing dangers of working as a police officer and gave a first-person perspective on what he sees daily.
His right eye teared up the most because his doctors say he still has a hole in it from where shards of glass blown out of his windshield by the gunman pierced his eye.
"It hit about an inch down from where the tape (bandage on the ear) starts and went straight through," Keys said.
The velocity of the bullet kept going through his headrest, ricocheted of the metal in his back seat and landed back in Keys' lap.
Blindly, with glass shards in his eye, he put the car in reverse and backed out of the line of fire.
"My ear started ringing and I felt the blood dropping down my shirt," Keys said.
While Keys was shot, another officer, Colt Tolen, was firing back at the suspect, identified as Steven Walker.
"I could see his arm sticking out behind the tree, and he had a gun in his hand," Tolen said. "I yelled, ‘Drop the gun, drop the gun,' at that time he stepped out behind the tree and started firing at me and I returned fire and hit him and eventually subdued him."
Walker was shot multiple times and was airlifted to the hospital.
In his three years working as an officer, Tolen's never had to fire his gun anywhere but the shooting range.
"When you train, you are shooting at paper targets they don't fire back, and when firing at a target firing back at you trying to strike you, it's a totally different world," Tolen said.
Tolen said after the shooting stopped he was relieved his supervisor only had minor injuries. The married father of a new 21-month-old son named Grayson said it was a job well done, and both officers made it home to their families alive.
"It is bringing us even closer, especially with our families and his wife calling me, thanking me for keeping him alive and bringing her husband home to her, and for me to bring myself home to my family," Tolen said.
Both men said the amount of guns in the hands of criminals seems to be getting worse.
Just a few months ago, Keys said he saw something during a traffic stop that made him realize there needs to be a change.
"I saw this guy fumbling down by his waistband," Keys said. "I motioned to my partner that something wasn't right and I pulled him out of the car and went to pat him down. He had a .357 tucked in his waistband, he was like 15 or 16 years old."
Keys said he thinks it is time law enforcement started to get a leg up on the criminals.
"Maybe in Griffin we can come up with a policy to get bigger guns, and able to put them in our car in the front seat in front of our heads and mounted to get it out if we need them," Keys said. "If I had my way, we would be doing sweeps twice a month in order to get these guns off the street or criminals off the street, that's what I like doing any way."
It will be a couple more weeks until Keys is cleared to be back on the streets. He still has a hole in his ear and his eye from shards of glass. His ear might need a skin graft to close the gap. When he is cleared, he is going back on the streets with Tolen to keep fighting crime.
"We are just ready to go back to it now," Keys said.
"We are ready to go back, as soon as he gets ready and as soon as he gets released back to the streets," Tolen said.
Walker is charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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