TPD Corporal Eager To Return To Work After Being Shot By Suspect

Wednesday, August 19th 2015, 11:23 pm
By: News On 6

A Tulsa Police Corporal said he's eager to get back to work, even though he's walking on crutches after being shot by a suspect Sunday.

Gene Watkins is a member of the Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task Force, made up of officers from several departments and U.S. marshals.

Last Thursday, Watkins celebrated his 25th year on the department then was shot three days later.

He's worked homicide, burglary and now, as a member of the task force, his job is to arrest some of the most dangerous fugitives in Green Country.

Watkins: "He locks ‘em up and I lock ‘em up."
Lori: "He jumps out and you jump out because you think he's gonna bolt."
Watkins: "I think he's gonna run and he has the gun in his right hand and boom, boom, he's shooting."

The fugitive squad was searching for ex-con Jeremie Kelly Sunday. They pulled him over, but he took off with Watkins right behind him.

8/16/2015 Related Story: Suspect In TPD Officer Shooting Dies From Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound

Watkins said the pursuit was getting dangerous and was just about to stop when Kelly hit the brakes.

“We knew who he was, go get him another day, it's not worth anyone's life in a pursuit, but, again, we didn't know he was armed and gonna come out firing like that," Watkins said.

He knew the minute he was hit. Watkins buckled to the pavement when the bullet went through his right hamstring, missing a major artery by a half-inch. He skidded across the pavement and was immediately grabbing for his gun and looking for cover.

Watkins credits officers who've gone through new medical training for getting to him and putting a tourniquet on his leg, even as Kelly kept shooting.

"We train to win. We train to survive, and I did. The officers did a good job and I'm here," said Watkins.

This wasn't his first brush with death. In 1991, with only one year on the department, Watkins answered a domestic violence call inside a house and a man came out shooting; he still has the jacket he was wearing that night that has the four bullet holes in it.

Lori: "Did it hit you?"
Watkins: "No...didn't even break the lining."

Despite the close calls, he has no intention of leaving the job. Watkins said he took an oath to protect people and intends to keep doing that.

He believes it was his great training, reflexes and prayer that protected him.

"I'm fortunate. I come from a long line of preacher's kids and my parents pray for me, and aunts and uncles," Watkins said.

Watkins can't speak highly enough of his squad and how they've been there for him and protected him.

He said it's unfortunate Kelly later took his own life, but said Kelly had told people he wasn't going back to prison, no matter what.