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  • In response to the latest controversy...

    Here is a story about what it really means to be a cop. Many times we let the media distort our views but this hero is representative of most police offers out there.

    I. ARIZONA OFFICER SHARES HIS AMAZING STORY OF SURVIVAL

    Phoenix Police Officer Jason Schechterle was carrying out his "routine"
    patrol on the night of March 26, 2001 doing the job that he so dearly
    loved.

    Jason, who was 29 at the time, had spent the night at the home of his
    best
    friend (and partner), Bryan Chapman. The two were usually inseparable.
    However, that night, they did not ride together the entire shift. They
    ate
    together at around 9 p.m., Bryan told Newsline.

    The very next call Jason took alone, but never arrived to complete the
    response. It was a call for an 'unknown trouble,' Bryan said. It was
    this
    call that led Jason to the collision during which he was so severely
    burned that he was left without a face. He was stripped of his physical
    identity and of the life he had always known - a fate many would not
    even
    want to live through.

    Jason and Bryan both spoke with Newsline in order to share this amazing
    story of survival with you.

    THE ACCIDENT - OFFICER ENGULFED IN FLAMES

    "As Jason approached the intersection of 20th St and Thomas, he had his
    overhead lights and siren on, but stopped for the red light facing him.
    Before he could proceed through the intersection, his Ford Crown
    Victoria
    patrol car was hit by a taxicab traveling upwards of 115 mph," Bryan
    explained. "Jason's patrol car was pushed approximately 226 feet and it
    was immediately engulfed in a ball of flames."

    What no one knew at the time was that the cab driver, Rogelio
    Gutierrez,
    35, had been responsible for four automobile accidents previously due
    to
    having epileptic seizures while driving. (During his trial, his defense
    attorney, Jeffrey Mehrens, argued that Gutierrez was on medication, and
    had an unpredictable seizure. However, Gutierrez continually denied his
    condition, refused to consistently see a doctor and refused to properly
    take his medication).

    As chance, fate, or the grace of God would have it, Phoenix Fire Engine
    #5
    happened to be responding to the same call Jason was responding to, and
    Jason's burning patrol car came to rest about 20 feet away from the
    fire
    engine.

    It took firefighters no time to realize that a patrol car was involved
    and
    the officer was still inside the vehicle being engulfed in flames. They
    fought through the flames heroically to get him out, the whole time
    wondering if they were really doing him a favor by rescuing him. He was
    so
    badly burned, firefighters said, that a piece of his burnt skin peeled
    off
    his arm as they pulled him out of the car.

    "By all accounts, it was about 30 seconds from the time of impact to
    the
    time water was put on the car. Jason was extricated from the car and
    transported to Maricopa Co. Medical Center with burns over 40% of his
    body. The worst burns were from the neck up, where Jason received 4th
    degree burns - a medical term I had never heard of. He was in such bad
    shape that a priest gave him his last rites before he went to surgery,"
    Bryan explained.

    KEEPING A BEST FRIEND'S PROMISE

    When they were sworn in as officers, Bryan and Jason made a pact -
    they promised each other that no matter what the situation was, it
    would
    be one of them that would tell the other one's wife if something
    happened.
    It was Bryan who had to keep that promise.

    Suzie Schechterle, Jason's wife, had talked to Jason on the phone that
    very night before the accident. She knew the risks of his job, and
    when
    he decided to pursue his dream 14 months before the accident, she
    definitely had her worries and doubts, but she still supported him.

    Telling Suzie was "the hardest thing I ever did," Bryan said. "Nothing
    can
    ever prepare you for that." The worst part, he said, was the feeling of
    being so helpless.

    "I remember standing in front of the door for what seemed like
    eternity. I
    wanted to give her that last 30 seconds of peaceful sleep."

    And it was seconds later when Suzie heard those dreadful words,
    "Jason's
    been in a very bad accident," Bryan told her. "Another car hit him.
    He's
    in bad shape."

    DETERMINED TO SAVE A HERO

    "The next thing I knew," Jason told Newsline, "it was June 12th." Jason
    said
    he felt no pain, and he had no idea the extent of what had happened to
    him.

    "Jason was in a chemical coma for the next three months (after the
    accident), Bryan said.

    Suzie was right there when he awoke. She started to tell him the story
    of
    what happened.

    "You're car was on fire," she told him. And that was the one thing that
    he
    always feared. He knew the dangers of his job - all warriors do. Jason
    said he was sure he could handle being shot...stabbed...those were all
    risks he knew he faced.

    But, "The only thing I couldn't stand to happen was to be burned."

    The doctors fought for hours to save him. His burns were so severe that
    layer after layer of skin was pulled off his face only to reveal more
    dead
    skin.

    "Doctors told us that he would survive, but they were not sure if he
    was
    blind or deaf. They painted a very grim picture. They told us that
    Jason's
    'face' had been removed down to the skull. His ears, nose and eyelids
    were
    burned away, and he would never resemble his old self," Bryan said of
    his
    partner's condition. Further, he had three fingers amputated after the
    fire, and his other hand was badly burned.

    RE-GAINING STRENGTH AND LEARNING THAT IDENTITY COMES FROM WITHIN
    Jason, wrapped in bandages, could not see the extent of his injuries
    until almost
    6 months later. Doctors had to sew his eyes closed because his eyelids
    were singed off. They had to graft skin to his eyes five times in an
    effort to create eyelids that would open and close to protect the eyes.
    In all, the officer underwent 19 surgeries before he ever even saw his
    face.

    He left the hospital on July 31, and went straight to a rehabilitation
    center. When he finally arrived home a little over two weeks later, the
    man that previously patrolled the streets as a warrior safeguarding the
    rest of us, could do nothing for himself.

    His wife had to help him get dressed, brush his teeth...any little
    chore
    that came so easily before was now a big deal.

    "Right away," Jason said, "every time I found out something new, I very
    quickly got the acceptance part of it." If my wife was still there,
    that
    gave me something big to live for."

    "Despite his severe injuries, Jason aggressively worked with his
    doctors
    and rehab specialists. He was so focused and worked so hard that
    doctors
    were amazed themselves," Bryan said.

    "He had a decision to make," Bryan added. He could be angry and feel
    sorry
    for himself or he could focus on the positives. One night as Jason lay
    in
    his bed, his eyes sewn shut and his head wrapped like a mummy, he
    decided
    to be a father to his kids and a husband to his wife."

    THE SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR

    What we sometimes naively forget is that the individual we are in
    actuality, is masked by the identities assigned to us by society based
    upon appearance. If you were stripped of your uniform, weapon and
    holster,
    patrol car, handcuffs, etc....would you still be a cop? You wouldn't
    look
    like a cop. Would you still have that hunter instinct that drives you
    to
    patrol those streets and risk your own life for the well being of your
    fellow man? It is the spirit of a warrior, the inner being, that drives
    a
    5%er, not your physical appearance.

    Jason dug deep down inside himself, and came face-to-face with that
    warrior inside. It is the strength and determination in the soul that
    makes the man - the man that Jason's family and friends love, and his
    colleagues respect.

    Calibre Press Street Survival Instructor Dave Smith reminds us that the
    virtues of a warrior are DUTY, HONOR, LOYALTY, FAITH, COURAGE,
    STRENGTH,
    and SELFLESSNESS.

    "This officers story transcends beyond the values of warriorhood to a
    deeper sense of humanity," the instructor explains. "Jason has gone
    above
    and beyond the pain and suffering and is a model of how we should live
    life to the fullest regardless of the circumstances we are dealt."

    One of the hardest things to cope with, Jason added, is knowing that he
    can no longer go on patrol. Being a cop is in his heart and soul.
    However,
    he finds comfort in knowing that his accident potentially saved several
    lives that night.

    That taxi driver was doing up to 115 mph and was having a seizure. If
    Jason hadn't been there to stop him, the driver would've made it to the
    busy intersection that was about a quarter mile away.

    "In a way I was doing my job as a police officer and probably saved
    someone's life who will never know it," he said.

    MAKING EVERY DAY COUNT

    To Jason, one of the most important lessons that can be drawn from this
    experience is that anything can happen at any time, so make the days
    you're blessed with count.

    "As officers, we put ourselves in harms way intentionally. If something
    happens - we can't take it as a big surprise. But things do happen that
    you would never imagine could happen. You never know when one decision
    will change your life forever, and the importance of what we're doing
    every single day is immeasurable," he explains.

    The WARRIOR SPIRIT was indeed within this officer, and giving up was
    NOT
    an option. He couldn't give up - he had to forge on for his family --
    7-year-old step-daughter, Kiley, and two-year-old son, Zane.

    Jason said that it took some time for Zane to recognize him as his
    "daddy." He was very reluctant at first. He recognized his daddy's
    voice
    when Jason would speak to him, but Jason didn't "look" like his daddy.
    But
    with a little time, and a lot of love, the strength of Jason's family
    overcame the adversity. Jason IS daddy, and "Daddy" is due to be a
    father
    again in November.

    Meanwhile, Jason is still a cop at heart, and is certified to be a
    detective. He is not willing to give up on law enforcement. He has
    found
    that he can take the integrity and loyalty ingrained in him from being
    a
    police officer, and relate that to the rest of society. He has engaged
    in
    a few public appearances and has aspirations to be a public information
    officer.

    Jason also met with specialists about replacing his nose and ears with
    prosthetics, but he'd rather not undergo years of facial
    reconstruction.
    He'd rather focus on function, rather than appearance, he said.

    Incidentally, the taxi driver that hit Jason was convicted of
    aggravated
    assault and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
    It's easier to get out of jail than it is a morgue. Live long and defend yourself!

    Jhn 3:16
    NRA Lifer
    GOA
    GSSF
    KABA
    SAF

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