Detective Eric Bryan was heading to work at the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office around 9am when a 10-65 came across his radio - an armed robbery. He only knew that the Kelly Post Office had just been held up at gunpoint and that the suspect was driving a gold-colored truck.
He posted up on Highway 53 in White Lake and when he finally caught up with the truck it was off to the side of the road with the driver’s door wide open.
Reasonably, Bryan considered the man had made a run for it, but before he could get out of his own patrol car the suspect jumped from the truck and started running at him while firing a gun.
The bullets pierced the hood of his car, hitting the fuel injector and rendering the vehicle inoperable.
A bullet came through his windshield hitting him in the face. It traveled through his nose, into his cheek and exited close to his ear.
Eric had seven bullets in his gun and shot four of them in defense, but the shooter kept charging until he reached Bryan’s door. The two locked eyes as both pulled their triggers.
Bryan pushed his door open to knock the man back. He fell out onto the pavement as blood poured from his face.
The shooter was now standing over Bryan, still pulling the trigger. Bryan started rolling and writhing on the ground, anything he could do to make himself a harder target. Despite the close range, the bullets missed.
“It's my understanding that through the investigative period that he said that at the time he made his mind up that he was gonna kill the first officer that he come in contact with and that's what he tried to do,” Bryan explained. “If I laid there he was going to try to put a bullet in the back of my head and that's what he tried to do but he couldn't hit a moving target, thank God.”
With his fellow deputies approaching, Bryan recalls laying on the ground bleeding and the pavement burning him from the July heat. He remembers how time seemed to slow down and how quiet his surroundings became.
“When the gun was in my face the first thing I thought about was my family,” Bryan said. “My boys were home in bed and my wife was home and they had to get a phone call that I had been shot.”
Help arrived for Bryan while other deputies chased the shooter into the woods, taking him down. He was shot several times then asked for and received medical attention.
The shooter went to federal prison to serve 37 years. Meanwhile, the recovery for Bryan had barely begun.
Bryan’s wife fainted when she first saw him in the hospital. It took two surgeries, lasting about 10 hours each, to reconstruct his face.
Then PTSD and depression set in. There was only so long Bryan could sit inside and watch TV. He couldn’t sleep. He lost interest in everything. He found his compassion for others was gone.
“You just think 'Ok, I got shot. I'll get better, I’ll bounce back and go to work,’” Bryan said. “I did, but the remnants of getting shot stay with you forever - whether it's emotional or physical. It's always there. You just learn to be happy.”
Thirteen months later Bryan returned to work at the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.
“We're there 24/7, we're there if you call us,” Bryan said.
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