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June 2012
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Officer returns to work after horrific wreck

BY CORIANNE EGANcegan@paducahsun.com

Paducah police officer Austin Guill doesn't remember the broken glass. He doesn't remember the twisted metal of his squad car, the sirens of his fellow officers' cruisers rushing to the scene or the helicopter ride to Evansville, Ind.

He does remember the pain he felt when he woke up in Deaconess Hospital with a fractured pelvis, hours after a runaway fugitive T-boned his car.

"They said they could hear me screaming across the hospital," Guill said.

Guill, 25, was critically injured when California fugitive Terry Murray crashed into his cruiser while trying to flee police in downtown Paducah on Nov. 7. Six months later, after surgery and extensive rehabilitation, Guill is back with the Paducah Police Department, working light administrative duty until he's at 100 percent health. Before long, he expects to be back on the streets as a patrol officer.

"It's exciting to be back," Guill said. "I feel like I have something to prove - that any criminal who wants to stop what we do here at the PPD, even when they make dumb decisions that almost kill me, can't stop us from policing this city."

Guill remembers the night of Nov. 7 vividly up until the wreck. He went on duty at 11 p.m. and soon afterward pulled a motorist over for driving under the influence. He was still working on the paperwork when he heard over the radio that a car had been stolen. Minutes later, one of his fellow officers radioed that he had found the stolen vehicle.

Guill hurried to his car, and caught up with the officers in pursuit. The chase along the downtown streets hit 90 mph before a supervisor called off the high-speed pursuit for safety reasons. The officers talked for a few minutes before Guill pulled off to continue his patrol. He remembers the car being quiet - he had shut off his emergency lights and sirens and was listening to the radio - and remembers turning down a street in Lower Town.

He woke up several hours later at Deaconess, his wife and pastor by his side. Photos of the wreck, which left his cruiser a mangled mess, were published regionwide in newspapers and support poured in from the community.

Guill suffered a broken pelvis, and his left hip was basically broken in two. He also had major nerve damage with bumps and bruises to match.

Murray was arrested later a few hours after the crash, after covering himself with garbage and hiding in a nearby dumpster. He faces 10 charges associated with the pursuit, the burglary and injuring Guill. The charges include seven felonies. 

After four days in the Evansville hospital, Guill was welcomed back to Paducah by a throng of supporters. He spent two weeks at Lourdes hospital before returning home. Then, the healing began.

"I was in rehab three days a week for three hours," Guill said. "I was on the treadmill, stretching and weightlifting. It was intense."

For the next few weeks, Guill will spend his time on desk duty working to organize the department's history. Last May, he used his research skills to find the story of a fallen officer who had died in the city in 1894. That officer, James E. Phelps, was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., because of Guill's work. He enjoys history and is organizing artifacts of the department to be put in display cases throughout the building.

When he is cleared by a doctor, however, he will put on his navy blue uniform, sit in his new cruiser, and go back on the streets of Paducah. He knows just where he's heading first.

"I am going to pull up to the intersection of Seventh and Madison, and I am going to see where it all happened," Guill said. "I am gonna get out of my car and let everyone know that I'm back as a protector of this community. And nothing is going to stop that."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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