Granbury officer risked life to save others

September 21, 2013

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by kathy cruz

Seven-year-old Natalie Davis tries to be extra careful these days when she gives her dad a hug.

Though the pain in Chad Davis’ right shoulder has lessened since that day in June when life changed forever for his family, the damaged nerve still screams at times. His entire right arm is still paralyzed – a malady that has left him unable to drive.

Natalie, a second-grader at Oak Woods, now hugs her dad on his left side. And the budding soccer player assures him that he really doesn’t have to kick the ball with her at all – not even with his right foot, if he doesn’t want to.

Using his left leg for soccer practice is not an option for Davis, due to the bullet fragment that penetrated his knee. A second surgery, maybe even a bone transplant, appears likely.

Of the little girl he calls “Munchkin,” Davis said: “She won’t want to play because she’s afraid I’m going to get hurt.”

Cari Davis said that her daughter, who also loves softball and basketball, misses the times her dad was able to practice with her. She wishes he could come out and play.

“She thinks Daddy hung the moon,” she said.

The severity of the injuries that Davis sustained the day Ricky Don McCommas came to town have prevented him from being able to return to the Granbury Police Department, where he has worked for 12 1/2 years.

He does pop in occasionally, though, when Cari is able to be his taxi driver. She works as a special investigator for the District Attorney’s Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Stopping by the P.D. to see his buddies on the force is a welcome break during endless days of watching television at home. Davis would rather be working.

“It gets boring,” he said of being homebound. “But the recliner is the best place to be. If I don’t lean my shoulder against something, it gets pretty heavy.”

It has been almost three months since Chad was last on duty. He had been almost five hours into his 12-hour shift on Friday, June 28, when, at 10:47 a.m., a criminal trespass call came in to 911 dispatch.

McCommas, facing charges in Johnson County for a sexual assault on a Hood County teen, had arrived in town to confront the girl and her family.

Within minutes, Deputy Lance McLean, who responded to the call, lay mortally wounded on a front lawn in the 2600 block of Edgecliff Court in Oak Trail Shores. He had been shot in the head by McCommas.

Davis, en route to the Police Department inside Granbury City Hall when a dispatcher sent out an “officer down” call, quickly changed course and began looking for the suspect’s white van. At a stop sign on Thorp Springs Road, McCommas drove past him.

Davis turned on his lights and siren and began pursuing McCommas. Several other law enforcement vehicles – including one containing Sheriff Roger Deeds – joined the slow-speed chase.

“I was attempting to stop him, all the way to square,” Davis said.

At the parking lot off Houston Street, just east of City Hall, McCommas pulled in, grabbed his assault-style rifle and stepped out of the van.

Just feet away, Gary Farina was discussing with two workers the placement of items on the patio of his restaurant, set to open the following week. The men looked over at the white van. Farina and McCommas locked eyes.

Just as McCommas began to raise the rifle, something caught his attention, and he turned.

It was Chad Davis.

“That’s my husband!”

Cari Davis was among those sitting in the District Courtroom, waiting for the jury to render a verdict in the capital murder case of “Flash” Gordon Ray Lewis, accused in the murder of club owner Gene Sabin.

A defense attorney asked Texas Ranger Don Stoner if he knew anything about a report that an officer was down.

“I logged onto Spillman on my phone,” said Cari. Spillman is a high-tech system used by the Hood County Sheriff’s Office.

“It said that 505 had been hit. That’s my husband’s call number – 505.”

Cari read the message over and over again. Finally, it sank in.

“I yelled out, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s my husband!” she said.

Stoner and Cari rushed from the courtroom. He drove, while she kept looking at Spillman to get the location of the shooting.

“There were two different (officer down) calls,” she said. “I was trying to read the Spillman information.”

They sped to the scene at the town square, arriving at the same time as the ambulance. Cari saw a body lying on the ground. It was McCommas. She spotted Police Chief Mitch Galvan. There was so much chaos, he wasn’t even aware yet that one of his officers had been hit.

Galvan, Deputy Chief Alan Hines and several others from the Police Department had come running out the front doors of City Hall, unaware that the loud pinging noises they were hearing were from bullets hitting the building’s rock facade. Had the shooting not stopped when it did, they would have been running directly into the line of fire.

Cari frantically surveyed the scene, asking, “Where’s Chad?! Where’s Chad?!”

Then, she said, a deputy waved to her.

“It was, ‘Hey, get over here. Something bad has happened,’” she said in describing the way the deputy flagged her.

An EMS crew was putting her husband on a stretcher. His uniform was bloody.

“I’m a police officer, too. I know that there’s no telling what kind of damage (bullets) can do. There are a ton of things that just go through your head.

“I saw the rifle laying on the ground, so I knew he had been shot with a rifle. But there are still different types of ammunition. Fortunately, he was shot with a ‘practice’ round. It’s different from what law enforcement use. (The bullets) don’t do as much damage.”

As EMTs loaded the wounded officer into the ambulance, Davis spotted his wife.

“Tell Munchkin,” he said, “that I love her.”

In the brief amount of time it took the ambulance to drive Davis to Lake Granbury Medical Center to be airlifted to a Fort Worth hospital, the medication administered at the scene began to take hold.

The last thing he remembers about June 28 is the sound of a helicopter, and the feeling of rushing heavenward, toward the light.

heroic acts revealed

Dash camera videos from law enforcement vehicles tell the story of what happened in the midday showdown at the town square as terrified bank customers ducked down in their cars and pedestrians scrambled. Inside City Hall, employees were taking cover.

The videos are in the possession of the Texas Rangers and have not been released to the news media.

Galvan said he was allowed to view the footage. That’s when he saw his officer break the rules of training and step from the cover of his vehicle in order to save the lives of civilians.

“Chad noticed that they (Farina and his employees) were in the line of fire,” the chief said. “Chad basically drew McCommas toward him and engaged him.”

With nothing to shield him, Davis was hit in the knee after a bullet bounced off the pavement. He was then struck in the arm. One bullet, Galvan said, flew past Davis’ head.

Other officers – Deeds, Lieutenant Lynn McDonald, Lieutenant Johnny Rose, State Trooper Thomas Anderson and Officer Garrett Wiginton – were exchanging fire with McCommas. The suspect was wearing body armor.

“I didn’t even know I was shot in the knee,” said Davis. “I knew I’d been shot in the arm. I looked down and saw all this blood running down. My arm went limp. I couldn’t shoot any more.”

It was at this point, Galvan said, that quick thinking by Wiginton may have saved Davis’ life.

Seeing that Davis was wounded and possibly about to run into the trooper’s line of fire, Wiginton yelled directions at Davis to help him get to safety. He did it while continuing to fire at McCommas.

Galvan was incredulous when, from his hospital bed the next day, Davis apologized to him for leaving his cover.

“The guy is just absolutely incredible,” the chief said.

Cari Davis said that she and her husband later watched the footage together.

“It was emotional to watch it,” she said. “We were able to watch it together and kind of process it. It filled in a lot of (memory) gaps for him.
“He did come out from behind the cover, and that was kind of hard to watch. He was walking straight into McCommas’ bullets.”

a community heals

At first after the shooting, neither of the Davises wanted to talk publicly about what had happened.

But as Davis – and the community – goes through the healing process, the couple wants to share how touched they have been by all the help and support they have received.

“I see people on Facebook that don’t even know us saying nice things,” said Cari. “People who haven’t supported law enforcement, their hearts have turned.”

Though the Davises are keenly aware of the loss suffered by Katy McLean, who is left to raise two special needs children without her husband, they otherwise see that some good has come from that day.

“Our community came together and helped, not only us, but the McLean family,” Cari said. “Every single time that we get help – someone comes to mow our yard, or gives us a $5 gift card – it still amazes us that people care that much.”

It is not yet known when Davis will be able to return to work. The healing process is slow, and physical therapy is painful. At times, tests done on the damaged nerve in his shoulder have left him sweating and shivering at the same time.

Though June 28, 2013, will always be remembered as a tragic day in Hood County’s history, there will be this footnote:

“No civilians were harmed.”

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