Lakewood police Agent Ashley Ferris thought the man in a police vest walking toward her was an officer from another agency, or maybe a security guard.
Minutes earlier, dispatch had aired an alert about a homicide in Lakewood, following information from Denver police about a gunman on the loose in that city after several other killings that evening in late December. The man loaded rounds into magazines as he approached Ferris at the perimeter position she took near the Belmar shopping area.
She asked him a few questions, but something wasn’t right — Ferris could feel it in her gut. The man made a quick movement with his right hand and Ferris blocked him. She backed up and drew her gun.
“Don’t do this,” she recounted telling the man.
“I’ll show you what I’ll do,” the man responded, as he pulled a gun from his jacket.
The man shot Ferris in the abdomen, the bullet fracturing before exiting her back. As she fell, she fired several rounds at him as he tried to run away and she watched him drop. Bleeding on the ground, Ferris could see the gunman lying on the other side of her patrol car.
In the short stillness that followed the gunfire, Ferris felt angry — how dare he?
“I didn’t want to let him win,” she said Wednesday in an interview with reporters, speaking publicly about the Dec. 27 shooting for the first time.
After five months of recovery, Ferris is scheduled to return to work at the Lakewood Police Department on Monday. By killing the gunman, the 29-year-old police agent stopped his pre-meditated killing rampage that spanned two cities.
Investigators later learned the gunman was the author of three racist and misogynistic books that described similar killings and named some of his eventual victims.
The gunman already had killed five people — Danny Scofield, Alicia Cardenas, Alyssa Gunn Maldonado, Michael Swinyard and Sarah Steck — and attempted to kill several others by the time he encountered Ferris at the Belmar shopping area.
“I don’t feel like a hero,” she said. “I feel like I did my job.”
The fact that he walked up to her was complete chance and any of her fellow officers could’ve been in her shoes, she said. Her training kicked in when the gunman pulled out his weapon, she said, and her response was almost automatic.
“I do think the irony is kind of beautiful… that guy didn’t like women too much,” she said.
It wasn’t until other officers arrived and scooped her off the asphalt that Ferris worried she might die.
“The scariest part for me was when the other officer carried me into St. Anthony’s Hospital — he had me over his shoulder — and he was yelling ‘Officer down! Officer down!’” Ferris said. “Thinking about that even right now still gives me goosebumps. It’s hard for me to believe that I was the officer down.”
The bullet he fired at her damaged her sciatic nerve and left her temporarily paralyzed in her right leg. After two stints in the hospital, two surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy, Ferris re-learned how to walk. Her nerve pain makes it feel like the back of her leg is perpetually sunburned. It still goes numb sometimes.
But she plans to return to patrol duty from desk work as soon as she’s able to run. She never doubted whether she’d return to policing or patrol, she said.
“This community showed up for me so much and I’m going to keep showing up for them,” she said.
Ferris and other officers involved in the Dec. 27 incident will be honored by their department at an awards ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
When she has difficult moments, she thinks of the hundreds of thank you cards from community members she has stuffed in her cabinets and drawers. One of the victim’s best friends sent her a card, which hangs on her fridge.
“The outpouring of support has been paramount in my healing and my recovery,” she said. “I hope everyone knows I read every card and I’ve read them all multiple times. I haven’t thrown out a single thing.”
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