SEATTLE -- It was a beautiful, sunny Seattle day with people mowing lawns and walking lakes. And suddenly mid-morning police scanners and sirens indicated something went terribly wrong. A motorcycle officer was down, nearly bleeding to death, and a manhunt was underway for his gunman.
Retired Seattle police officer Mark Sigfrinius never finished writing his final ticket 25 years ago this Thursday. His last traffic stop of the day ended in gunfire. The driver blasted a .35 caliber bullet in Sigfrinius's lower chest, paralyzing the veteran officer. The bullet is still lodged in the middle of his spinal cord.
Sigfrinius was 40-years old and patrolling Fremont on his motorcycle. Seattle police didn't wear protective vests back then. The shooting changed that policy.
"I didn't realize that I was paralyzed. I knew I was hurt and I thought, well if this guy's gonna shoot me, I'm gonna return fire. So I shot every round I had at him," Sigfrinius said from his wheelchair at his home in Goldendale.
Sigfrinius, now 65, has been repeatedly acknowledged for his bravery and sacrifice, earning The Medal Of Honor and receiving a letter from President George Bush.
The community helped make his home wheelchair friendly. Supporters' compassion helped with healing.
"I went from being a uniformed motorcycle officer holding down the law and wake up helpless," he said.
Sigfrinius and his wife Priscilla decided to escape the publicity and house payments he struggled making on his salary. They moved to rural Goldendale, where he served three terms as mayor. Now he's the county hospital commissioner, a job that brings in $100 a month for meeting.
For the first time since the shooting, Sigfrinius is suffering a setback that's making him spend 21 hours a day in bed to recover. He has pressure sores, huge open wounds that he couldn't feel. They came with the thinning of skin and a lack of air in his wheelchair cushion. He will likely have to watch for them from now on. The officer who is too proud to ask for help needs help again.
"It's very difficult to ask or let anybody know that we need things, we have friends right now that don't know," his wife said.
The roof needs repair. The bathroom shower floor, cracked from the weight of the wheelchair, needs replacing. On his police pension, they are struggling.
The Sigfrinius kids sensed the stress and started a GoFundMe campaign when they discovered their parents couldn't afford upkeep on their home.
"Actually I was embarrassed, it was just something I hadn't expected," Sigfrinius said. "Who wants to let someone else know you need help? We would have got through it one way or the other you know."
He laughs that he could pay off the credit card when he's 70.
After all they've endured, this couple of 44 years knows they'll survive this challenge, too. Sigfrinius rarely thinks about his paralysis anymore and no longer calls the corrections department hotline to check on the gunman he's forgiven. He says he's a better person because of what happened to him 25 years ago today.
"I wouldn't change anything, I really wouldn't change anything," he said.
Sigfrinius says life in a wheelchair is the way it's supposed to be.
"Who knows what else would have happened. I rode motorcycles, maybe I would have got hit by a semi-truck. Who knows?" he said.
It's that positive attitude, faith, and family that have helped this officer who nearly died, live a productive, full life.
Anyone who would like to help Sigfrinius can do so here.