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Steve and K-9 Zara

K-9 Zara

My name is Steve, even at a young age, I felt the desire to serve the community in which I live. This desire to serve lead me to serve nearly four years in the Army and twenty-three years in law enforcement. I graduated high school in 1989 and joined the US Army seven days after graduation. My time in the Army was filled with excitement and adventure which I thrived on. After my time in the military, I bounced around from job to job but never found an occupation which satisfied my need for adventure. In 2000, I made a decision to embark on a career in law enforcement.
I began my career as a Correctional Deputy with the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office. I enjoyed my time in Corrections but knew I wanted more out of my career and desired to work in patrol. An opportunity presented itself and I moved my wife and I to Florida, near where I grew up and began a career with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. I loved my time with MCSO and thrived with the excitement this opportunity provided; however, in 2005, the decision was made to move back to Minnesota.
Once back in Minnesota, I began my quest to again work in Law Enforcement. I was eventually hired by the Cannon Falls Police Department which was a lot smaller department than I was used to, and the call volume was also much slower than I was used to. Seeking more opportunities, in 2012, I applied to and was hired on by the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office. I spent approximately 1 ½ years on patrol before being promoted to Investigator. I spent several years working general investigations before being asked to join the states Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. I spent approximately five years on the task force and was the lead investigator on numerous cases. Working on the ICAC task force began to change me and like most in public safety professions, I compartmentalized my experiences.
On November 22, 2022, while attending Dive Team training, I was assaulted by a suicidal male. I was returning to training after breaking for lunch and witnessed what I thought was a horrific crash. I later learned it was an attempt by the driver to take his own life by driving at a high rate of speed through a power pole. I observed the male driver exit the car and begin to walk away. I contacted my dispatch and asked that they send a marked squad to check on the driver and was advised it would be a bit before anyone could respond. Fearing for his wellbeing, I made the decision to check on the driver. I stopped my unmarked squad approximately 20 feet from the driver and activated my emergency lights. The driver immediately began shouting at me to shoot him and reached behind his back as if he was reaching for a weapon. I immediately drew my weapon and informed dispatch of the situation. I ordered the male to show me his hands at which time he immediately charged me. The suspect was a very large male, I later learned he weighed approximately 470 pounds. The temperature was approximately 20 degrees, and we were in an open field with uneven terrain. I began moving in an attempt to break contact and keep distance between the suspect and me. The suspect kept pursuing me and eventually caught up to me after I fell and got back to my feet, I do not remember falling.
As the suspect reached me, he began grabbing at my sweatshirt and continued shouting at me to shoot him. I knew help was coming and that I only needed to hold on for a while longer. I attempted to holster my weapon but could not due to my sweatshirt getting in the way. The suspect began grabbing for my weapon, I pulled my weapon away and continued to try and break contact with the suspect. I was quickly beginning to tire due to the cold which was causing my lungs to burn. The suspect grabbed my weapon two more times, and I feared I would be killed if he was able to take my weapon. After the third time, I made the decision I needed to shoot the male in order to stop the assault and save my own life. I fired three times into the male’s abdomen which caused him to drop to the ground and take me with him. As the male went to the ground, he landed on my legs causing an injury to my left foot. I was able to push the male off me and return to my feet. I immediately knew something was wrong with my foot as I could not weight bear on my left side. I hobbled to my squad and advised dispatch shots had been fired. Based on witness statements the entire incident lasted approximately one minute and thirty seconds, but it felt like a lifetime to me.
At the hospital, I was informed I sustained a Lisfranc fracture to my left foot involving several broken bones and several torn tendons. Surgery was required to repair the damage. Two surgeries and 11 months later and I have been left with permanent nerve damage in my foot. In addition to the physical injury, I began noticing signs of PTSD including anger, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, etc. I began seeking treatment in January for PTSD and have since been diagnosed with significant PTSD. Through therapy, I learned my PTSD was not caused by this singular incident but as a result of my 23 years in law enforcement and this was just the final straw. Before this incident, I had planned to work at least another five years and had just been promoted to Civil Sergeant which was to take effect in January 2023. However, due to the physical injury and the continued PTSD, in August, I found myself in a situation where I had to medically separate from a career that for so many years provided me with a sense of purpose and an identity. I now find myself struggling to find new purpose and identity.

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