The Lakewood Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial, which honors the victims of the November 29, 2009 Lakewood police officer shooting. Photo by Marques Hunter via Wikipedia
Three years ago this Thanksgiving weekend, an Arkansas parolee named Maurice Clemmons shot and killed four Lakewood police officers in a coffee shop. Chris Sorrells was one of the first officers at the scene. In the years since, his life has changed dramatically.
Chris Sorrells is probably alive today because of a twist of fate. He says he would have been at coffee that morning with his fellow officers. But his wife had gotten up early with him and made coffee at home – something she didn’t normally do.
Instead of going to Café Forza, Sorrells sat in his patrol car catching up on paperwork. When the call came in that there’d been a shooting he raced to the scene lights and sirens.
Sorrells was the first Lakewood officer to arrive. He found his friend and the drummer in his band Officer Greg Richards dead in the doorway. The whole direction of Sorrells life changed at that moment.
“When I first saw Greg there and the rest of them in the coffee shop, I didn’t think that could have been me.”
Instead Sorrells says his thought was: “I don’t want that to be me.”
“One sure way of fixing that is to not wear a uniform," Sorrells says. "Because that’s why they were killed. They were wearing a uniform. That is the only reason Clemmons hunted them down and did what he did because he wanted to kill him some cops.”
Sorrells says his reaction that morning to the carnage, the loss of his friends, was to say “I’m done.”
For much of the next two years Sorrells stayed home. He was diagnosed with PTSD and depression and put on disability leave. When he was back at work it was light duty.
Late last year, Sorrells returned to patrol. He avoided day shifts preferring the cloak of night. He says he found that cop camaraderie again.
“But I just wasn’t into it. My head, my heart was not into doing that type of work anymore.”
Sorrells says he probably would have stayed on -– it was steady work, he needed the paycheck –- but his wife is in the Army and got stationed at Fort Bragg. So, this July he turned in his badge and gun, packed up and moved east.
Sorrells says on this third anniversary his thoughts will be with Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards and their families who, he says, are still suffering.