Larry Wheeler had been waiting at the auxiliary building working on police intelligence, his specialty, having been also summoned earlier by Lt. Elkins, when Jim Ehrhart burst through the door trying to get to the evidence locker for his shotgun.
“What the hell, Jim! You scared the shit outta me! What’s going on?”
“Hudson’s gone off the deep end! We gotta clear this building! He’s shot Mike, and Danny’s still over there!”
“What the FUCK!”
“Do you have a gun?” Ehrhart asked Wheeler as he grabbed his shotgun.
“It’s in the van.”
“Get it and come with me!”
“I will . . . wait, did you call 9-1-1?”
“No. I barely made it out alive!”
“I’m calling them now! You get back there, and I’ll jump in the van and follow you after I call for help.”
Ehrhart ran back across the field and heard several muffled gun shots that sounded like they’d come from inside the building. The first patrol cars arrived right before he got to the gate, and he quickly briefed the officers on what was occurring. Just then, Larry Wheeler pulled up in the van.
No one knew if there was going to be a hostage situation or murder or suicide or what. Therefore, everyone for the moment remained at the gate looking inside in order to assess what to do next. Off to the side in a culvert next to the parking lot just inside the gate, Wheeler and Ehrhart spotted a man sitting up. It was Mike Crowe.
Wheeler and Ehrhart followed behind a patrol car just inside the gate to reach their friend. The squad car provided cover from any further gun shots. Wheeler, a retired United States Marine and Vietnam combat vet, reached Crowe first and immediately assessed his physical condition.
Crowe looked like a horror movie. His face was drenched in blood from some kind of head wound, as was his clothing from numerous gunshot wounds to his body. Wheeler checked his ears first and saw that they were not bleeding, which indicated that despite appearances, the bullet that hit Crowe in the head had not entered into his skull. But Wheeler also noticed that Crowe who was still conscious and alert had blood foam around his mouth and nostrils, indicating that his lungs had been punctured.
“I can’t breathe.” Crowe said.
“Hold on! We’re getting you out of here.” Wheeler said in response.
The smaller Wheeler tried to lift the taller, heavier Crowe but could not. Somebody helped Wheeler get Mike Crowe into the back of a patrol car.
“Please don’t let me die!” Crowed pleaded.
“You’re gonna make it, Mike. Hang on!”
By now a paramedic, John Abarca, was on scene, and he took over treating Mike Crowe in the back of the patrol car that was now speeding away to the Yuma Regional Medical Center Emergency Room. The paramedic stuffed all the lubricated cloths he had with him into the bullet holes he found on Crowe’s body before he ran out. He felt the head wound and gratefully determined that it was a graze down to the bone that had not entered the skull. Crowe was still conscious and talking to Abarca and emergency medical technician, Jodi White, who was holding Crowe’s hand, encouraging him to “Hang on!” Bad as Crowe was shot, the medical people hoped that he might be able to live.
“We’ve LOST HIS PULSE!” Abarca yelled and began compressions on Crowe’s chest to keep his blood circulating to his brain and vital organs.
Crowe asked White who was still holding her patient’s hand to tell his wife and children that he loved them.
“YOU TELL THEM yourself. We’re gonna save you!” she ordered through her tears.
The emergency room had already been alerted that a patrol car was bringing in a wounded police officer for immediate emergency surgery. They also were informed that an ambulance was on the way with another wounded police officer who was likely deceased.
When the patrol car screamed to a halt at the hospital, bloody pandemonium ensued. Mike Crowe was placed on a gurney, and he had to be strapped down. With the last of his strength, Crowe was now yelling and trying to pull off the oxygen mask that had been placed over his nose and mouth. Doctors and nurses hurriedly wheeled the gurney into the operating room leaving behind a trail of blood.
Police Officer Daniel Siegfried followed the medical people keeping guard over the patient because no one knew what was going on or why Crowe had been shot or if someone wasn’t going to come in to finish the job! A doctor tried to stop Siegfried who informed the doctor that he wasn’t leaving his charge. The doctor just made the police officer put on hospital scrubs instead.
From his vantage point, Siegfried witnessed the brave, but ultimately failed, effort to save Crowe’s life.
Siegfried said that as often as the doctors put blood and, later, plazma into Michael Crowe’s body that it just as quickly poured out of one of the numerous wounds. Soon the floor of the O.R. was covered in blood. Because the orderlies bringing in new packs of blood weren’t washed up for surgery, they would stop at the door and slide the new packet across the floor to the table. Siegfried said that the floor was so flooded in gore that the packets looked like little motorboats raising a tail fin of blood behind them as they slid across the floor.
When the doctors finally got Crowe’s chest open and could feel his vital organs, they found to their dismay that a bullet had passed through a portion of Crowe’s heart, which was, nonetheless, still beating. At that point, all hope was lost, and Michael Crowe was pronounced dead. The time was 10:42 p.m. on the Fourth of July, 1995.
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