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Chicago cop who nearly bled to death to be honored by Bears

Del PearsChicago police officer who was shot March 19 2012 describes injury his left arm his home Chicago IL Friday

Del Pearson, the Chicago police officer who was shot on March 19, 2012, describes the injury to his left arm at his home in Chicago, IL on Friday November 30, 2012. He still does not have the full use of his left hand, but is going to be doing the coin toss for the Chicago Bears game on Sunday. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 3, 2013 6:29AM



For weeks after he was shot in the chest and nearly bled to death, Del Pearson constantly thought about the events of the night of March 19.

Pearson, a Chicago police officer, saw the gun in the hand of the man he intended to question. He thought about running for cover. He reached for his radio, but discovered his left arm wouldn’t move. Only then did he realize he had been shot and seriously wounded.

“It crossed my mind for a second that if I laid on this parkway, I was going to die,” Pearson, a married father of two, said Friday at his home in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community. “It never crossed my mind again. I didn’t see any bright lights, never thought about dying.”

More than eight months later, Pearson is recovering, but he isn’t back to work yet. His left hand still tingles and experiences numbness.

He is right-handed anyway, so that’s the hand he will use Sunday when the Bears honor him, including having him hand a coin to the referee for the coin flip before the game vs. Seattle at Soldier Field.

Pearson was hospitalized at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn for more than a week after the shooting. Advocate Health Care, which owns Christ, also is participating in Sunday’s ceremony.

“Health-wise, I’m fine,” Pearson said. “But the nerve damage to the hand hasn’t come around.

“I’ve got about 30 percent mobility. I can’t make a fist. I can’t spread my fingers out. The sensory nerve is coming back, but the motor nerve isn’t coming back yet.”

He can move his pinkie and ring finger, but said the hand is numb for the most part. He can drive a car, but basics such as tying shoelaces or even cutting a steak and opening a jar are challenges.

“Luckily, I’m right-handed and you can work around stuff like that. You find shortcuts,” he said.

‘Never felt a thing’

Sitting on a sofa Friday, gazing at the family Christmas tree, Pearson, 47, had no answer for a question he’s heard often: What does it feel like to be shot?

“I don’t know. I never felt a thing,” he said. “My body went into survival mode right away. It wasn’t like on TV.

“I saw the gun, and the first thought was ‘run for cover.’ I didn’t realize I was shot until I went for my radio with my left hand and I couldn’t move my arm.”

Pearson and some other officers had stopped to question a group about an apparent curfew violation in the 8500 block of South Kingston Avenue. That’s when one man, Paris Sadler, took off, according to prosecutors. Pearson gave chase as Sadler ran to the home of a friend. When the friend wouldn’t let Sadler in, Sadler allegedly opened fire. A bullet struck Pearson in the chest above his bulletproof vest.

When Sgt. Christopher Kapa and Officer Kirsten Lund saw how badly Pearson was bleeding, they rushed him to Advocate Trinity Hospital in their squad car. He subsequently was transported to Christ Medical Center and underwent 5 1/2 hours of surgery.

Doctors said Pearson lost nearly three-fourths of his blood. Some of the doctors and nurses who treated him will be at Soldier Field on Sunday. Pearson is grateful to them and to Kapa and Lund.

Meanwhile, Sadler, 20, is in the Cook County Jail, awaiting trial for attempted murder.

“I’ve been told the maximum sentence for attempted murder is 80 years,” Pearson said. “I don’t want him to see the outside until I’m dead and gone, so he’s got to do at least 60. That way, if I live to 100, he’s still in (prison).”

Thoughts of the shooting, Pearson said, “were in my head, over and over and over again. I thought about it constantly for two weeks,” he said. “Then it stopped.”

He went through counseling with therapists, just as he did two years ago when he shot and killed a criminal.

Looking ahead

Pearson hopes to return to the police department after the holidays.

The bullet that entered his upper left chest, severed an artery, struck his spine and lodged in the back of his neck, has been removed. His fellow officers told him they’ll present it to him some day.

He’s gone through seemingly countless hours of rehab and is champing at the bit to get back to work on the streets of the South Chicago District. But he knows that’s a long shot.

While doctors have cleared Pearson to work, it’ll be desk duty for him when he gets the OK from the police department. At least until his left hand returns to normal — if it ever does.

“I’m ready to go back, desk duty somewhere,” he said. “I want to take the sergeant’s exam, get promoted, go back to school, get my master’s degree.”

Earlier this month, he was honored with a Blue Star Award, given to officers for “exemplary dedication and personal courage displayed in the performance of official police duty.”

Lately, to fill idle hours, he’s been working on remodeling his basement to build a bedroom for son Jacob, 14.

Daughter Samantha, 16, will join Pearson at the 50-yard line for Sunday’s coin flip, and Pearson is looking forward to rubbing elbows with Bears star Brian Urlacher. Pearson hopes his wife, Christine, and Jacob also can attend the game.

While his being honored Sunday is based on having been shot in the line of duty, Pearson has no regrets over his career choice.

“I’d do it all again. It’s the funnest job in the world,” Pearson said. “It’s like when you are a kid, playing cops and robbers, only now it’s for real. The car chases, the foot chases, elements of danger, helping people, catching the person, investigating, talking to informants ... it’s a real thrill.”



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