ELYRIA — After getting shot during a standoff while trying to serve an arrest warrant in May, Amherst police Officer Eugene “J.R.” Ptacek desperately was trying to get to safety but only had the use of one leg, he testified Monday.
Ptacek said he was shot in the left buttock and collapsed on the front porch of Martin Robinson, whom officers were trying to serve with an arrest warrant out of Cuyahoga County. Unable to use his left leg, Ptacek found himself stuck in a dangerous position.
“I need to get the heck out of here,” Ptacek said when asked what was going through his mind at that moment. “I need to get cover because gunfire had erupted. I believed at that time my life and safety were in imminent danger.”
Ptacek took the stand during the trial of Robinson, 40, of Sheffield Lake. Robinson was indicted on 22 counts including attempted murder, as police have said he was the one who shot Ptacek during the standoff on May 31.
The U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force and the Lorain County SWAT team had been making announcements for hours, asking Robinson to come out of his home and give himself up peacefully.
Officers eventually decided to take the next step and try to breach the door and make contact with Robinson. Ptacek was the officer who opened the front door of Robinson’s home with a battering ram, he testified.
Immediately after he did, chaos ensued.
“I turned around and started to semi-run back toward the MRAP,” Ptacek said. “I felt something strike my left buttock, and at that point I didn’t realize what had happened. I continued to try to exit the fatal funnel area, and then realized I had been shot. I lost all dexterity in my left leg.”
Ptacek was trying to get to the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle the SWAT team had parked on Robinson’s front lawn. Ptacek said the fatal funnel is the area inside the doorway that becomes a danger because they don’t know who or what is on the other side of the door when they open it up.
Police say Robinson was on the other side of the door with a 20-gauge shotgun that he used to shoot Ptacek.
The injured officer crawled off the porch using his right leg to propel him along. When he got off the porch, a fellow officer motioned and yelled to him, “Come on J.R. you can make it.” Ptacek shook his head to answer, “No, I can’t,” he testified.
Two members of the SWAT team then ran and grabbed Ptacek by the straps on his vest and dragged him to safety behind the MRAP. Then they placed him in the vehicle and the driver of the MRAP, deputy sheriff and SWAT team member Gage Hume, drove the vehicle in reverse to a waiting ambulance a block or so away.
During his testimony Monday, Hume said he drove the vehicle in reverse down the road and through the turns because he didn’t feel he had time to turn it around.
Ptacek said he felt he was entering the “golden hour” when a person who has been shot only has an hour left to live if they don’t get the necessary medical treatment because they’re losing so much blood from their wound.
Once he was placed in the ambulance, Ptacek was taken to a nearby shopping center where a helicopter was waiting to fly him to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. With hours, he was in surgery.
“As the bullet went through my body, it entered my left buttock,” he said. “Instead of ricocheting outward, it went inward. By doing so, it compromised my colon, my intestine, my rectum and I had a lot of internal bleeding and damage.”
Ptacek has undergone several other surgeries since that first, and he said he has at least one more next month. He hasn’t returned to work and he still walks with a limp after nearly a month of rehab following yet another month in the hospital.
Testimony in the trial will resume this morning in Lorain County Common Pleas Courtroom of Judge Chris Cook.
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