Officer Credits Training After Surviving Struggle with Armed Gunman

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Officer down! Those are the two most dreaded words a law enforcement officer will hear.

Instructors try to use the violence as teachable moments. Hundreds of officers patrol the streets all day and night. Each of them has a goal, which is to go home safely. Kansas City, Missouri has been spared of having an officer die in the line of duty since 2001. The last time an officer was hit by gun fire was 1983.

There have been many close calls. Two officers with KCPD were shot on September 18, 1996.

Derek McCullom will never forget that day. Some 15 years later, he is a sergeant and responsible for supervising a group of officers who are about the same age that he was in 1996. McCullom and his partner Rob Blehm saw a drug deal go down near 558th & Indiana. A foot chase took McCullom and the suspect into the woods.

Even though he was unarmed, McCullom continued the chase.

"All of a sudden he fell, I fell and there was Rob," McCullom said.

A split second later, the first of several gunshots was fired.

"Rob got hit," said McCullom said. "There was blood everywhere."

McCullom came face-to-face with his own mortality.

"He held gun to my head and said, ''I'm going to kill you, cop,'" McCullom said.

The gun was fired, but nothing happened because it was empty. McCullom pushed him away. The suspect ran and his partner emptied his gun. He hit David Humphrey twice in the legs. He was on the run for two days but turned himself in to get treatment.

Some people say it's a miracle that they survived. But McCullom said it was their time in the academy and a little luck.

"They train you, train you, train you," he said.

Nearly 16 years later, the message at the academy is the same. You will be trained, trained and trained some more.

"Their training and preparation is taken very seriously at this academy, and as I said, it starts at day one," said Tye Grant with KCPD Academy.

Sgt. Grant and his fellow training officers have about 30 weeks to get the new class of recruits ready for the street. Even then, their training won't stop. Sgt. Grant hopes that's the same for everyone in the department.

"If at any point we ever get complacent to believe we know everything that we need to know on this job, then it's probably time to retire," Grant said. "We should be looking for an opportunity for growth every day, to do our job better and be more safe at it."

McCullom says he knows how valuable the training is. It's a big part of the reason he's here today.

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