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Officer Dan Walters, paralyzed in the line of duty, turns 48 today

Dan Walters' life has been one of perseverance. I could have written those words in 1992 when a 26-year-old Walters made his major league debut in his eighth pro season, in 1995 when he returned to the game after missing a year following a spinal injury, or in 1997 when he walked again after a second, even more serious spinal injury. Perseverance was again in full display when the Santana High graduate fulfilled a lifelong dream by becoming a San Diego Police officer in 1999, but all of that was just a precursor to what he has endured for the past decade.

On the night of November 12, 2003, Walters saw another cruiser stopped with its blue lights on, so he pulled over to back him up. Uninformed of the peril that he was entering, Walters was immediately rushed by a gunman who had already fired on a fellow officer. After a brief struggle, the subject shot him point-blank in the neck. Walters' body was then struck and pinned under the car of a passing motorist. Officer Walters remembers much of what happened that night and has since been filled in on the rest; last November he recounted the events to Fred Dickey of the Union-Tribune.I'm not going to blockquote his recollection of being shot, but the whole piece is definitely worth a read if you can stomach that sort of thing.

Since the shooting, Walters has been paralyzed from the neck down, save for minimal use of his left arm.

The paralysis, mercifully, left him with enough movement in his left arm and hand that he can stiffly perform some basic functions: change channels on the remote, manage his wheelchair, shake hands after a fashion, scratch his nose, and …

"That’s about it. It’s all in the left arm. See, if you look at my body, the left arm has a little bit more muscular development. The other arm is completely atrophied. I can just barely move this (left) one. If you look at this (right) wrist, it’s completely limp."

Dickey also details the agony Walters faces every morning he wakes up, day after thousands of days.

One of the evils of his type of paralysis is that movement is prevented but not pain. Walters spends much of the day in bed, forced there by pains that won’t quit, pains that shoot through his body and limbs like electric current. He has a pain pump that helps, but "helps" is a weak word that often means "not very much."

In addition to the constant physical pain he battles, Walters also suffers from clinical depression, but continues to persevere like he always has. In 2009, The International Latino Gang Investigator’s Association (ILGIA) publicly recognized Walters as "A Hero in our Midst" at its 4th Annual Gang Conference in his hometown of San Diego. At the time, a fellow officer said of him: "Dan had his ups and downs during his baseball career and he strived to achieve his best in the face of adversity. As a police officer, Dan is a Cop’s Cop. Like the Marine who never gives up his Title, Dan is still a Cop to the core... Today, Dan is a symbol of great strength, determination and perseverance. Yet he is as humble and modest a man as you will ever meet."