Officer Young received emergency medical care at Highland Hospital. Photo: iStockPhoto.com
Editor's note: This is the second installment of PoliceMag's "Returning To Duty" Web-only series about the challenges officers face getting back to police work after sustaining injuries on the job. Read the first installment here.
The trauma team that loaded Fremont (Calif.) Police Officer Todd Young onto a gurney at Oakland's Highland Hospital didn't initially realize just how close the lawman—who had suffered a critical gunshot wound—was to death on that warm, August Friday.
The 39-year-old Young was in SWAT shape, and had trained his body to fight through adversity and mask the trauma he suffered.
Young had been working undercover earlier that day in one of Oakland's most violent neighborhoods. He wore a T-shirt and jeans with his badge hanging around his neck and carried a .45-caliber SIG Sauer 220 pistol in a drop-leg holster. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., a gang member shot Young during a foot pursuit.
When Young arrived at the hospital, his vitals didn't raise undue concern, 160-over-100 for blood pressure and a heart rate of 85 beats per minute. Because his heart rate was so slow for the conditions, doctors believed he hadn’t lost a lot of blood. For most trauma patients, a higher heart rate signals blood loss because the heart works harder when the body has less blood.
Young was admitted into the ER where Highland trauma surgeon Dr. Javid Sadjadi decided to send him for a CT scan. His face had grown pale, and the CT image showed a pelvic entry wound and exit wound above his left buttock. The large dark spot on the image showed blood pooling inside his body.
That dark spot was caused by a bullet fragment that pierced Young's iliac artery located deep in his pelvic region. Dr. Sadjadi now knew why the wounded officer was so pale; he was bleeding out. Young was rushed into the operating room. On the way, he called his wife, Nicole, to reassure her.
During the next 51 days, Young would undergo eight surgeries, spend 19 days in a coma, and inspire hundreds of officers to donate blood on his behalf.
Now as he recovers, Young is keeping his eye on the prize. However long it takes, he wants to get back to chasing high-risk bad guys on the gang task force and rejoin his department's SWAT team.
"I'm not going to be a victim, and I'll help other people who can't help themselves," says Young. "I just believe in keeping the public safe. I just believe in actively seeking criminals. That's what I do."
On the afternoon of Aug. 27, 2010, Officer Young and his partner Eric Tang rolled into East Oakland in their surveillance car. As members of the Southern Alameda County Major Crimes Task Force, the officers were looking for Andrew Barrientos, a member of DeCoto 14, a Union City Norteño gang known for its violent threats against law enforcement.
Barrientos, 21 at the time, had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and infant son, and Young knew where to find him. A tip led Young to "the nicest house on the block" on Auseon Avenue between Olive and Birch streets. He was told to look for a granite walkway, a rarity in that low-income neighborhood. Young spotted the house, and then spotted Barrientos standing near a black Chevy Avalanche parked at the curb.
Young yelled, "Police! Police!"
Barrientos bolted toward Olive, turned the corner, and began to head up the street. He turned and fired at the pursuing officers with a Glock 9mm he jerked from his waistband.
Barrientos fired 10 rounds, one of which struck Young in the pelvis. The officer replied with seven shots but missed his moving target. Young moved to the sidewalk and kneeled, so he could apply direct pressure to the wound.
Almost immediately, Officers Michael Igualdo and Nancy Cercedes rolled up in their black-and-whites, answering Officer Tang's call for help. Igualdo pulled a first-aid kit from the trunk of his cruiser and began applying QuikClot gauze to Young's wound to accelerate clotting.