Detective raises awareness of PTSD after being shot

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A Wichita Police detective is raising awareness of post traumatic stress disorder 11 years from his traumatic experience.

Detective Derek Purcell is a 14 year veteran of the Wichita Police Department.

He was shot by a suspect while on-duty around 11:30 p.m. on July 11, 2008.

"I remember seeing the muzzle flash. I heard the bang. I felt that first bullet hit me in my left hip," said Purcell. "I could think of all the thoughts going through my head. I remember thinking, 'God, don't let him shoot me in the head. God, you know, just give me more time."

The then-24-year-old was celebrating exactly three years as an officer when he was rushed to the hospital with gunshot wounds to both of his hips. 

The 26-year-old suspect, Francisco Aguilar, opened fire on the officer and then ran away from the scene. He later shot himself and died. 

At that time, investigators did not have a clear motive but said Aguilar suffered from mental illness, including bouts of severe depression.

"I woke up the next morning and I just remember being amazed to be alive," said Purcell.

Purcell said that while he was healing from physical wounds, he was bottling up his mental wounds.

"There were nights I didn't sleep at all.  I would re-live these dreams. In these dreams I would die in these dreams over and over again," he said.

But a member of the WPD Critical Incident Stress Management Team eventually got Purcell to seek therapy.

Soon after, Purcell became part of that same team and has been helping peers for nearly a decade. 

At the end June, Purcell joined the founder of "Ride4Relief" to raise awareness of PTSD among veterans and first responders.

"I wanted to be able to show people, 'Hey, there are first responders that are dealing with this,' but my main goal with this was to unify the departments across the nation," said Jeff Shepard, founder of Ride4Relief and a retired office from Washington.

Shepard is highlighting department across the nation that are nurturing first responders who are often faced with traumatic experiences.

"The things we see and the things that happen to us on the job, they take a toll on you," said Shepard. "The death that I'd seen over that time. The kids that I'd seen die. It's a tough job. Sometimes, it's pretty thankless. Please just remember those first responders."

To learn more about the non-profit Ride4Relief, click here.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call these 24-hour services:

  • Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255
  • Sedgwick County COMCARE Crisis Line at (316) 660-7500