patrol car, and the other in the opposite direction. I grabbed the radio and notified dispatch
that I was going on a foot pursuit after who I
thought was the primary suspect.
I failed to realize that the second suspect
had doubled back behind me and was now
chasing me. I quickly found myself wrestling
for my life, fighting both suspects in a dimly
lit carport. During the struggle I sustained stab
wounds to the right side of my head which
led to significant bleeding from my scalp and
head. I considered the use of deadly force, but
decided I wasn’t raised to, nor wanted to, kill or
injure anyone—regardless of circumstance. It’s
a decision I still struggle with today.
Fortunately, EMS arrived and I was saved
by people trained to treat my injuries. That initial contact with EMS would forge a sense of
respect and appreciation for a profession that
would remain with me forever.
After recovering from the injuries, I proceeded for ward with my career in law enforcement. I regained confidence within myself and
became a weaponless defense and impact weapons instructor.
It was a fantastic time in my life and I felt I
was exactly where I should be.
A few years later, I received the great opportunity to attend the California Highway Patrol
Motorcycle Enforcement Training Program,
the finest, most respected motor officer training program in the world. Completing the program remains the toughest thing I’ve ever done.
After graduation, I began another advancement
in my career with the police department. I was
on top of the world.
SECOND EMS ENCOUNTER
One fall morning while performing my usual
traffic enforcement duties, I had my second
encounter with EMS. I noticed what I thought
was a stolen motorcycle and attempted to pull
the motorcyclist over. He failed to yield and a
high-speed chase began.
As I pursued him through the streets, a truck
loaded with hot paving asphalt was stopped
in a two-way turn lane which permitted only
As I proceeded to the right of the truck, he
abruptly made an illegal right-hand turn, cutting off the northbound lanes of travel.
I applied my front brake and grabbed as
much of it as I could. I remember the front
tire beginning to chatter as I applied maximum
pressure. The distance closed dramatically, and
I simply ran out of room.
I had only two choices: I could either take the
impact at the trailer tongue, or choose another
path. I released the front brake and struck the
rear drive wheels. I felt that with this choice,
at least I wouldn’t be cut in half and I’d have a
chance to survive. I thought to myself, “It’s not
so bad. It’s not so bad.”
I can remember the moment of impact and
striking the rear drive wheels of the truck. I flew
forward over the front of my motorcycle. The
front of my head struck the tub of the trailer
and flipped me over backwards.
My next memory was looking upward, smelling hot asphalt and feeling the radiant heat
coming from the trailer. I couldn’t move or
control my body. I heard the sound of brakes
releasing and the truck above me began to surge
forward. Again, things turned to black.
When I regained consciousness and looked
up again I could see daylight. The cool air and
the haze of the lifting fog surrounded me.
I felt my right hand gripping my sidearm
in its holster for some unknown reason. Then
the intense pain began.
I noticed steam coming from the right side
of my chest. I looked down toward my right
hip. Despite the continued sensation of my right
hand gripping the weapon, I saw nothing. My
right hand wasn’t there.
I turned my head and saw my right hand and
arm rolled into a ball next to my helmet. Both
were mangled and nearly torn from my body.
Then I saw the blood and the bones of my
right hand and pulled my body armor away from
my chest only to have the remaining stump of
my right shoulder and artery eject blood into
my face and mouth. The pain was unbearable. It
was a situation I was completely unprepared for.
I managed to locate the radio on my left hip
and removed it from the carrier. I called for fire
and ambulance, set the radio down and instinctively shoved my left hand deep into the stump
of my right shoulder, into what I thought was
my open chest.
I recalled what I’d been trained to do in
emergency care classes at the police academy:
I made the decision that my life would end
there on the pavement, alone, dismembered and
bleeding to death. I began to hold my breath
in an attempt to lose consciousness.
A fellow officer arrived. He began to talk to
me, offering words of support and telling me
repeatedly that he wouldn’t let me die alone.
Shortly thereafter, a paramedic rig arrived and
took control of the situation.
I can’t recall what I said or what they said
to me, but I do know that they were with me.
Realizing I was at death’s door, the paramedics
and firefighters of the Santa Rosa Fire Department cared for me with great speed and skill.
My lifelong respect and appreciation for
EMS grew in that moment. They got me to
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s trauma center
within minutes, where the staff worked heroically and managed to save my life and my arm.
I woke in a dimly lit room to someone stroking the left side of my forehead. It was my father,
my hero. I remember telling him, “I’m sorry, I’m
so sorry.” I remember thinking I had embarrassed him and everyone who had trained and
worked with me because I was unable to stop
and I hit that truck. The embarrassment and
shame I felt was much worse than the physical
Realizing a dream: The first day of motorcycle enforcement duty after graduation for the prestigious California
Highway Patrol Motorcycle Enforcement Academy. Photos courtesy Michael Peterson