Stafford officer Carrizales to receive international award for heroic efforts
By Michael Sudhalter
When Stafford Police Department officer Ann Carrizales survived two gunshots at close range and still managed to help chase the alleged suspects involved, her seemingly super-human actions garnered media coverage from as far away as Great Britain.
To Carrizales, a 41-year-old former Marine Corps military police officer, she was just doing her job in the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2013.
But there were some who compared her heroics to the fictional movie character, “Robocop,” – something that she believed was the antithesis of her experiences over the past year.
“I know the public means nothing but to honor me, but I’m not Robocop – Robocop is not real,” Carrizales said. “Police officers are real people who have husbands, wives and children. We get scared and angry, and we get our feelings hurt. We’re every day people that happen to have something inside of us that calls us to do what we do. We’re real people who bleed and hurt the way civilians do.”
Carrizales’ heroics that day have been well-documented, but the story of her recovery – physically and emotionally – haven’t been discussed much.
Carrizales has returned to the police department on light duty, and she hopes to return to night patrol when her doctors give the OK.
On Wednesday, Carrizales and fellow SPD officer Leslie Claunch received the Governor’s Star of Texas Award. Claunch was injured in the line of duty during a 2011 incident.
On Oct. 1, Carrizales will travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where she’ll be presented with the Medal of Valor for her courageous and heroic efforts by the International Association of Women Police.
A long road to recovery
Since Oct. 26, 2013, Carrizales has had multiple surgeries, including a partial mastectomy because that’s where the second bullet hit. Doctors told Carrizales that the second bullet was a thin pancake’s width away from entering her chest cavity, and small parts of the vest became lodged in her chest.
“I felt like I got punched really hard (after the first shot),” said Carrizales, a former professional boxer. “I was shocked. I immediately could taste the metal and blood in my mouth. A million things will go through your mind. I began to react, then the second shot rang out (within a few seconds).”
The first bullet went through her cheekbone and out through her jaw. Through the surgeries, she’s fought infections. She may need as many as 2-3 more surgeries over the next few months.
In her mind, Carrizales recognized the threat on her life, but she decided that dying at that traffic stop was not an option. She credits her Marine Corps training with helping her survival skills.
“Once an officer puts that thought in my mind, the body is going to follow – your mind has a huge impact on what the body does,” Carrizales said.
As a brief firefight ensued, Carrizales remained calm and remembered to “keep her heart rate down” – something she learned as a professional boxer.
She did a quick self-assessment and returned to her cruiser, used the radio to communicate what happened to her fellow officers and took part in chasing the alleged suspects, who were eventually apprehended.
Emotionally, Carrizales has been recovering with the help of a psychologist and fellow officers who have been in similar situations.
“There’s a small group of police officers that understand what it’s like, and we must seek each other out,” Carrizales said. “I want to open about what I’m going through, so other officers may have an easier time with it.”
In October 2012, Carrizales was involved in an life-threatening situation where she had to fire her weapon. Her physical injuries were minor, but she visited a therapist who taught her a great deal about Critical Incident Stress Management and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Post-traumatic stress affects the body, and the therapist has helped me understand that,” Carrizales said. “PTSD doesn’t just affect the person, but everyone around them, too.”
A supportive community, a commitment to law enforcement
Carrizales said it’s not uncommon for citizens to spot her in public and either say thank you, give her a hug or start crying.
She said that was overwhelming at first, but she has grown to appreciate their gratitude.
Carrizales said her family – husband and two children – have grown stronger in the aftermath of the incident, and she’s received a great deal of support from the law enforcement community – in Fort Bend County and beyond.
She credits Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella and Stafford Police Chief Bonny Krahn with being very supportive.
“The Mayor came into the trauma room and literally got teary-eyed,” Carrizales said. “He said I would have 100 percent of his support with everything I needed, and the mayor has been there.”
Carrizales said she had an emotional, heart-to-heart conversation with Krahn that emphasized his support, but noted that the details were confidential.
Many politicians reached out to Carrizales right after the incident, including U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), who invited her to the State of the Union Address last January in Washington D.C.
At the State of the Union, Carrizales was impressed to meet Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, whom she proudly gave a “fist-bump.” She also met Willie from “Duck Dynasty” and he was impressed to meet her because he’d heard her story on the news.
Carrizales, who said she doesn’t consider herself a political person at all, has been thoroughly impressed with Olson’s efforts to stay in touch with her and her family – long after the cameras have moved on to the next story.
As a young person growing up in California, Carrizales felt a calling to help others. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps during the 1990s and after serving honorably as a Military Police Officer, she moved to her parents’ hometown of Corpus Christi to work as a police dispatcher.
From there, she was offered a position as a Dispatch Supervisor with the Sugar Land Police Department.
In the Marine Corps, all of the MPs are trained to do patrol and dispatch, so Carrizales’ military experience helped her land a position as an officer in Stafford.
Despite the incredibly challenging incident she overcame last October, Carrizales is determined to continue serving the community in law enforcement – and sharing her story with her fellow officers.
“I’ll tell my story,” Carrizales said. “until my last breath.”
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