On the anniversary of the fateful day Alexandria police Officer Peter Laboy was shot in the head, he was reunited with one of the emergency responders who saved his life.
Laboy and his wife Suzanne got the chance to say thanks and debrief the pilot at the controls of U.S. Park Police helicopter Eagle 1. Sgt. Kevin Chittick was on a presidential detail that day, his medic and two U.S. Secret Service personnel on board, but he was able to break away from that assignment when radio traffic reported an officer had been injured.
"We heard you were on the ground and we needed to get to you so we dodged over there," said Chittick after he met the Laboys in the U.S. Park Police hangar in southeast Washington.
Chittick says initially Eagle 1 made three sweeps over Alexandria looking for the yellow taxi driven by the man believed to be the gunman who shot Laboy. Then the crew learned Laboy's condition was grave and they zeroed in on Old Town where Laboy lay on the ground below, near Lyles Crouch Elementary School.
Chittick spotted the school playground, which was far smaller than the ideal size for a landing zone.
"I told the medic, I think I can get it in there if you are ok with it, he's one of the best guys we got," explained Chittick.
Having a Secret Service agent on board was also key, Chittick said. She was a former pilot and could watch the chopper's tail rotor for him in the tight space.
On the ground a K-9 officer cleared the playground. Chittick landed, and Eagle 1 medic Sgt. Tim Ryan rushed to the Alexandria medic tending to Laboy. Both boarded the chopper, and they headed to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
"Those guys acted quick, no delays," said Chittick. "There are so many cogs to this I'm just one teeny part."
Laboy credits Chittick for helping to save his life.
"Somebody told me before one of the things he said was, 'There's an officer down. I'm not going anyhere.' And that's what he did. It was probably one of the things that saved my life," said Laboy.
Laboy's wife says Chittick was one of several first responders in the right place, at the right time.
"It's just wonderful," said Suzanne. "He did his job and does it very well. Everybody who has been a part of this, especially that day a year ago, everybody did their job and combining that, this is the result we have."
Chittick says seeing Laboy Thursday was a great feeling.
"I was a little worried about getting emotional. We don't ususally get to see the folks back on their feet, so it was great. It really makes you feel warm inside, " said Chittick.
Laboy's recovery from the traumatic brain injury inflicted by the bullet continues and his return to the police force is still uncertain. He underwent surgery this week to repair a shoulder injury suffered during the shooting incident. He hopes to rehab in time to play golf this summer.
Suzanne Laboy says she'll mark the anniversary this way: "You stop and you love each other and hug each other and you're just glad he's here."
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