SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco police officer narrowly escaped death in the line of duty. Officer Kevin Downs was shot in the head last October while responding to a 911 call in the Taraval District.
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On a warm, tranquil day, Downs and his wife Corey enjoy a pleasant walk in their North Bay neighborhood, something he could not do just months ago.
"I'm doing well," Downs exclusively told ABC7 News. "The mobility is that."
Not only is the 25-year-old officer almost fully recovered today, Downs is at peace with what happened last fall.
The night of Oct. 14, a 406 call went out over police scanners. It's the call that every cop fears, 406, officer down.
"406 makes your heart skip a beat," said Downs. "When you hear 406 you never know how bad it is."
On this night, it was Downs partner making that call when he was shot in the head. When asked if he remembered Downs replied, "Oh, I remember everything."
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Downs was one of several officers responding to a 911 call at Lakeshore Plaza. A man who appeared to be mentally disturbed was causing trouble at a store. He was later identified as Nicholas McWherter.
He says McWherter took off running. A short chase ensued. Downs exited his patrol car and the suspect was about 10 feet away.
"It was so dark and it happened so quick," recalled Downs. "I didn't see him pull his arm up and as he ran by me he fired three shots."
One of them struck Downs in the head. When asked what his immediate reaction was Downs replied, "It was, 'Why did he just do that? That's not fair.' I was just going to tackle him."
Police cornered McWerter near Stern Grove where he was shot and mortally wounded. Downs was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital where he spent six days in intensive care. He was lucky to be alive.
Downs' doctor said the bullet narrowly missed a major artery in his brain by one centimeter, the diameter of a fingertip. "He said if it hit there, it would have only been a couple of minutes," he said.
The head wound affected his motor skills. "I had no movement of my right leg at all," Downs told ABC7 News. "The right arm was very clumsy."
He now has a titanium plate over his skull and has gone through a long rehab. "There was definitely somebody with a greater power watching me that night," Downs said. "I'm glad it was me who was shot. I wouldn't have wanted to see my brothers in that position."
Downs' recovery has been remarkable. he's back working with his non-profit, Ranchin Vets, which he and his wife started in college to help veterans cope with civilian life.'
He even helped swear in Police Union President Marty Halloran, who supported him through his recovery. "My ultimate goal is to return back to full duty and return back to the streets," Downs added.
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He feels like he's almost there, maybe as soon as spring.