DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Firing a weapon in the line of duty is the kind of event that can change a police officer's life forever and causes many to quit the job.
Last August, one Duluth Police Sergeant's training paid-off in a scenario most officers never have to face.
Sergeant Brad Wick earned top honors in Minnesota for his actions and his service.
It's a night the 26-year police veteran, Sergeant Brad Wick, constantly replays in his head.
"You would go through it, over and over and over again and wonder that if something would have changed what would have happened," said Wick.
It was a Sunday, August 28, when Wick and another officer set out to arrest Brian Butala a man accused in a drug store robbery.
"Things never work out the way you had planned," said Wick.
When they spotted the suspect a car chase ensued, and Butala and his accomplice, forced their way into the home of a young woman.
"We didn't even have the opportunity to talk, but we just looked at each other and knew we had to go into that house at that time," said Wick.
Upon entering, Butala shot the young woman in the leg, and then fired at the officers, setting off a barrage of bullets.
"All my training I ever had kicked in. I never had to think of one thing that happened, from returning fire to going for cover," said Wick.
Wick fatally shot Butala, possibly saved the life of the woman inside the house.
"It's unfortunate. I feel sorry for his family, parents, his mom, you know. She lost a son," said Wick.
"The thing to remember is that something like this changes a person. The majority of officers never even shoot their gun outside the shooting range," said Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
Wick has gotten three awards related to his swift actions, the most recent presented this week.
"There's been a department award, as well as the Minnesota Chiefs of Police and now the Minnesota Police Officers Association," said Ramsay.
Both state-wide awards are for "Officer of the Year."
"Everybody's very proud of Brad, that's quite a, like I said, quite a distinction," said Ramsay.
In fact, it was Sgt. Wick that helped get the high school age Chief Ramsay interested in police work during a ride-along.
"It was Brad's character, and he was so friendly and outgoing and um, you know, just it really struck me that something I want to do and these are the kind of guys I want to work with," said Ramsay.
After the shootout, the department, friends and family rallied around Wick with support.
"My wife would have liked to see me maybe retire afterwards but she's never come out and said that," said Wick.
"I think it's about 60 percent leave within five years after being involved in a shooting. That's a substantial number so that shows the impact," said Ramsay.
The sergeant is still on the job, and so is his K-9 partner, Abe, but on that night in August, Wick came very close to losing his four-legged backup.
"Had he not gotten stuck in the doorway, he would have got shot. I guarantee that the first thing that that suspect would have done was shoot my dog," said Wick.
Wick believes things happen for a purpose.
"I've been here a long time and could retire if I wanted to and I just, I don't see a need for it right now. Like I said, it's the best profession a person could do," said Wick.
Sgt. Wick says he keeps in touch with the young woman, whose house the shootout took place in. He says she has since recovered from her leg wound.
The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Award for "Officer of the year" is not given out annually, only when outstanding cases come up.
Chief Ramsay says few Duluth Officers have gotten the state-wide awards.
Posted to Web by Jena Pike