WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Sgt. Mike Fey heard a call across his radio for an armed suspect in Houston Moore on July 30, 2005. It wasn't his territory, but he turned his patrol car around anyway to help his fellow officers at the Wilmington Police Department.
Fey remembers heading for 16th Street but that's his last memory. The injury he was about to sustain has erased any memory of that moment and a month later.
What he knows of what happened he's learned from witness reports.
The suspect had robbed a bail bondsman the day before in Brunswick County. Now, he was lurking around the homes of Houston Moore, gun in hand.
Fey arrived at the scene and a foot chase ensued. When the armed suspect came at Fey, he reached for his taser and says he's regretted it ever since.
The two barbed hooks rocketed out of the taser but only one hit the man, rendering it useless.
"At that point, he turned around and shot me with what I think was a 45-caliber and hit me in the neck," Fey recalled.
Fey was leaning forward, allowing the bullet to travel down his torso, his front chest cavity, turn and then exit out of his back.
"I should be dead," Fey said. "I did die 4 or 5 times on the way to the hospital."
It took about ten rounds to take down the man show shot Fey. He did not survive.
Inside the emergency room, doctors struggled to keep Fey alive. The halls were filled with WPD officers waiting for some kind of news.
The next memory Fey has is getting ready to leave the hospital with his wife.
"The first month, two months, I was like an infant," Fey explained. "No energy. I would sleep more than half the day away."
He returned to work about two years later on light duty. It was a struggle to say behind a desk when his passion was to be out on the streets.
"With police work you get to look into so many people's lives and you can either ignore it or learn from it," Fey said. "I always chose to learn from it. If you don't hop back on the saddle you are NEVER getting in it."
When Fey reached "maximum medical improvement" it was clear that his severe memory loss could only be improved so much. He did not want to hinder his fellow officers and went out on disability in 2009.
To this day, he'd still love to get back into it.
Fey now works in private investigations. Given his history and the community of law enforcement he still has, eruptions of anti-cop sentiment and officer shooting deaths are as troubling today as they would be if he was still in service.
"We're just like everyone else," Fey said. "When you go home you take your uniform off and you hang out with non-law enforcement people....It's not like we hang out with just cops and talk about who I tazed today and who I did this to today. That's not reality. That's fiction in people's minds. We do what we do to survive. I didn't ask him to run. I didn't ask him to rob a bail bondsman."
A saying among officers is that they'd "rather be judged by 12 instead of carried by six." Meaning they'd rather face a trail then end up dead because they did not take the correct action.
When officers like Fey hear complaints that they should try to shoot for the knee or another less fatal target, they quickly point to their training and the right of every officer to go home to their families that night.
"There is no such thing as shoot them in the knee and injure them," Fey said. "You can only bring out your weapon if you feel threatened by deadly force so at that point you have the right to USE deadly force. If an officer tries to shoot someone in the kneecap but misses and it ricochets and hits a 10-year-old guess who's in trouble?"