Snyder, TX – A Snyder police officer is facing discipline for having medical complications at work stemming from being shot in the head on duty.
Snyder Police Corporal Darrell Campbell should have been home with his wife and children on the night he was shot in the head at a domestic disturbance, but instead he’d stayed to work a little longer because his department was short-staffed.
Cpl. Campbell and Officer Lee Ortiz responded to a home at about 12:25 a.m. on July 12, 2011 for a report of gunshots, and found 41-year-old Dwayne Birmingham in the driveway, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
“Out of nowhere, the guy pulled out a gun and shot Cpl. Campbell in the head,” former Officer Ortiz told Blue Lives Matter.
“From the time he shot Campbell to the time I put him down, there was approximately four to five seconds,” Ortiz said. “[Birmingham] fell dead literally right at my feet.”
He said that night he didn’t believe there was any way Cpl. Campbell would survive his injuries.
“I was there. I seen him get shot. I seen him laying in the yard. I seen blood shooting out of his forehead. I knew Cpl. Campbell was going to die that night. I knew he couldn’t survive,” Ortiz described the scene that night.
In retelling the story, it’s obvious that Ortiz, who left the Snyder police in 2013 and no longer works in law enforcement, was deeply affected by the fact that his friend and colleague was doing him a favor by working the night he was shot.
“When this happened, he wasn’t actually supposed to be on duty. He stayed over to help me because it was just myself til another officer finished up with a suspect’s blood draw at the hospital,” he explained.
Former Officer Ortiz described the scene after the shooting as chaotic.
“I called for EMS. I called for backup. I called for the chief. I called to get the helicopter started,” he explained that the closest trauma center was located more than an hour away from Snyder by ambulance.
It was touch-and-go for Cpl. Campbell afterward. He was in critical condition on life support for a week after he was shot, and few thought the wounded hero would survive.
But Cpl. Campbell, who was known for his intense love of his family and the job, defied all odds.
After multiple surgeries and two painful years in a rehabilitation facility 90 miles away from home in Lubbock, Cpl. Campbell said he was ready to return to the police department in April of 2013.
The 15-year-veteran of the Snyder police could have asked for a medical retirement after having been shot in the head in the line of duty, but his love of the job stopped him from giving up hope that he would eventually be able to return to patrol.
When he first started back at work, Cpl. Campbell was assisting with administrative duties while he continued his therapy in hopes of returning to full duty. But then everything quickly went sideways, he said.
Former Snyder Police Officer Anthony Drahos recalled that it wasn’t long after Cpl. Campbell returned that the chief started hassling him.
“They put him in the front office and basically he sat and went through pawn tickets for a year,” Drahos told Blue Lives Matter. “Then they demoted him to a clerk.”
The demotion came with a substantial pay cut, and the city stopped paying for Campbell to renew his law enforcement credentials with the state, he said.
“The way they’ve treated him is horrible. With the demotions, he couldn’t even pay his bills. It’s just a sad thing,” Drahos said. “It was bad right from the beginning.”
The former Snyder officer said that right after Cpl. Campbell was shot, his fellow officers were allowed to use police cars to make the drive off-duty to visit him an hour-and-a-half away. But it didn’t take long for the city to shut down that courtesy, Drahos said.
Despite the demotion, Campbell hung in there, and continued to work for the police department in an administrative capacity.
Drahos, who used to be president of the Snyder police union, said that initially, they organized fundraisers to help Campbell with expenses, but that over the years and since he left, those efforts have fallen off because most of the officers who worked with Campbell back when he was shot are no longer with the department.
Unfortunately, Campbell’s health slowly declined over the years as he has continued to develop additional problems related to the brain injury he’d received from the bullet, Campbell told Blue Lives Matter.
Lately, things have taken a turn for the worse, and the brave officer told Blue Lives Matter that he’s struggling.
Sources from his department said that the new police chief who joined the department in February was trying to make Campbell’s life miserable so he would give up and leave.
“I now have seizures daily due to my brain injury,” Campbell explained. “The seizures make me very fatigued, causing me to fall asleep at work."
“We have a new chief that keeps writing me up for this and there's nothing I can do to change it. It's been very difficult to adjust to sitting behind a desk after driving my office around for 20 years,” said the former police supervisor who worked for the Sweetwater Police Department and Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office prior to joining the force in Snyder in 2009.
Instead of seeking a reasonable solution for a man who almost died in service to his community seven years ago and still painfully pays for it on a daily basis, new Snyder Police Chief Earl Morrison treated Campbell’s ongoing brain injuries as a disciplinary problem, sources said.
“I was suspended for two days without pay last week, and was written up again yesterday and sent home without pay for the day,” Campbell told Blue Lives Matter on Wednesday.
The injured officer said the police department and the city of Snyder have reduced his income to the point where he wouldn’t be able to make it without the additional financial support that he’s received from police supporters in his community.
“In a sense, I feel like I've been abandoned by my hometown and constantly kicked while I'm down every time I begin to recover,” he said.
Campbell said all along, everyone has told him that he has been too nice about the way he’s been treated in the wake of his serious on-duty injury. And life’s been rough outside the office for the wounded hero, too.
After 14 happy years of marriage and three kids together (two natural, one adopted), Campbell’s wife was unable to handle the pressures of a critically-wounded law enforcement spouse, and left him a year after he was shot in the head, before he could even walk again.
“My injury destroyed my marriage,” he said.
“She stayed with me for about a year, and when I was in an assisted-living facility in Lubbock, she came to see me and informed me that she wanted a divorce. We had been together since I was in the academy in 1998,” Campbell recalled sadly.
So as Campbell, who also had two children from a previous marriage, has battled to overcome the traumatic brain injury, he’s also been fighting to rebuild his life and return to the job that defined who he was as a person for so many years, he explained.
But the wounded former officer said that the most recent disciplinary measures taken by the new police chief have driven him to the end of his rope, and it’s become a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” situation for him.
“I was only working when I got shot because they were down a few officers that night and they needed me,” Campbell said. “I wanted to help and look where that got me.”
Campbell said he planned to file a lawsuit against the city of Snyder and the police department, seeking restitution, and that he’s already talked to an attorney about suing the city for negligence, because he was shot when he was covering a staffing shortage.
The new police chief told Blue Lives Matter he couldn’t comment about the situation in any detail because it was a personnel matter.
“There’s a much bigger picture that we just can’t discuss because it isn’t fair to anybody if we do that,” Chief Morrison said.
He emailed Blue Lives Matter a statement he said was the sum total of what they could reveal.
“Darrell Campbell is a respected former officer who was seriously injured in the line of duty. Due to his disability, we placed him in a civilian position and have made accommodations for him. We have no further comment on this current personnel situation,” the statement read.
Ortiz told Blue Lives Matter that he’s most bothered by the situation because the city has reneged on promises it made when the corporal was first shot.
“First the city of Snyder and the police department gave full support and the city promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But then he started making his recovery and he came home, and then all that support started trickling off,” he said.
“The main thing I remember is the city promising to take care of him for the rest of his life,” Ortiz recalled sadly.