San Francisco police officer shot in head narrowly escapes fatal injury

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Officer Kevin Downs was shot in the head in San Francisco after responding to a call of a man acting strangely at a shopping mall. (KGO-TV)

Officer Kevin Downs was shot in the head in San Francisco after responding to a call of a man acting strangely at a shopping mall.

One centimeter, the diameter of a human fingertip, in the wrong direction and Downs wouldn't be recovering in the hospital, he would be lost in the line of duty.

Downs has been on the force for two years. San Francisco Police Chief Toney Chaplin said Downs is recovering and talking. The suspect, who was arrested following a manhunt, is also recovering at the same hospital.

RELATED: San Francisco police say suspect in officer's shooting in custody
Chaplin says Downs is lucky to be alive. A bullet from a suspect's gun narrowly missed a major artery in his brain. Downs is conscious and talking, but not out of the woods yet.

"He underwent surgery to remove fragments from his brain and he still has partial paralysis on side of body from a shot to head," Chaplin said.

The incident began Friday night at Lakeshore Shopping Center police got a 911 call about a man acting strangely and threatening shoppers. When officers approached the man he turned and fired several shots.

"The officer had no clue he had a firearm. And before he knew it, the subject fired on him," Chaplin said.

Police say the suspect ran into nearby Stern Grove. Police surrounded the park. The suspect emerged from the bushes at 28th and Vicente and ran, but was shot by officers.

"The suspect fell to ground; however, he continued to hold the weapon, the firearm, near his chest while refusing multiple verbal commands to surrender," Chaplin said.

Police used flash bang grenades to distract the man, allowing police to arrest him.

Family friends say Downs is a great person, donating time to his community. He even co-founded an organization, called Ranchin' Vets that helps veterans who served after 911. Downs'own father was a San Francisco police officer as well.

"The family over the years has given so much to the city, to this country," said family friend Ben Ben Matranga.

The suspect is in critical condition. SFPD plans a town hall meeting next week to discuss the shooting.
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