WALDORF, Md. - Two Charles County Sheriff’s officers are returning to work, nine months after they were shot while responding to a mental health call.
For the first time, Patrolman First Class Andrew Fenlon and Officer Bradley Harris are speaking publicly about what they endured that day and their battle since then to return to the job they love.
On May 17, 2021, the officers were responding to a call at a home in Waldorf for a man with an outstanding warrant and, unbeknownst to his family, a ghost gun.
"Everyone knew that he had a long history of mental illness, but no one knew he was in possession of a handgun," said Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry.
Once inside the house, Fenlon, an 11-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, led Harris and another officer as they approached the man’s room. Harris had only been on patrol for three months.
They say what happened as they entered the suspect’s room was almost instantaneous.
"I remember clearly seeing the barrel pointed straight at us," Harris said.
Two bullets hit his leg.
"One shot went through breaking my tibia and the bullet got stuck in the bone," he said. "The other shot went in and came out the other side of my leg."
Fenlon was also shot twice.
"Through my arm and second round to the vest," Fenlon said. "I went into an office next to his room and returned fire, and I feel like I knew I was hit, but didn’t have any feeling in it yet."
Harris went into a different room with the other officer.
"Once I actually got in the room, I hit the floor," said Harris. "I couldn’t hear anything. The ringing in my ears had me in somewhat of shock from it all."
Fenlon ran from the home, but with his leg injury, Harris had to jump out of a second-story window. An officer on the ground stood below him to catch him, so he wouldn’t further damage his leg.
An hours-long standoff ensued as officers tried to make contact with the shooter. Investigators say he was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Fenlon and Harris were flown to Baltimore Shock Trauma, checking in on each during the flight.
"I remember being so dehydrated just thinking at some point I may pass out," Harris said. "And thinking of my mom and my family."
Harris’ mother, Brigitte Proctor, remembers getting the phone call.
"I can’t even describe it," Proctor said. "It was just the worst thing you could ever hear."
She rushed to the hospital and after a wait, got to see her oldest child.
"Just hearing his voice, it was literally like just having your baby for the first time and being able to hold them," she said. "And the feeling that you get that this is my child."
"It was really, really a breathtaking moment," Harris said of seeing his mom. "It was like the moment I felt like I probably really am going to be OK."
Fenlon, a father of two young children, was able to call his fiancée, Savannah Duke, from the hospital.
"There was still so much that was unsure," said Duke. "I remember him just saying, ‘I just don’t want to lose my arm.’"
It’s an especially dangerous time to work in law enforcement. The number of officers shot has skyrocketed in recent years from 237 in 2018 to 346 in 2021, according to data from the Fraternal Order of Police. Data shows last year, 63 officers didn’t survive the gunfire.
Duke said she spoke to Fenlon about returning to work.
"He wanted to go back. I did not want him to go back," she said. "It was really scary and it could happen again."
Despite his lasting injuries, Fenlon returned to duty last week.
"I don’t have any feeling in a large portion of my hand, my fingers," he said. "It hit a nerve, so they had to take some nerve from my leg and put it in my arm, and they had to rebuild an elbow from a cadaver. My forearm bone was replaced with a bolt."
In honor of the bulletproof vest that saved his life, he got a large tattoo near the scar that says, ‘Point Blank Body Armor’ and ‘Wear It For Life.’
Harris said he’ll be back on duty next month.
"I absolutely can’t wait," Harris said.
Proctor also had misgivings about her son returning to law enforcement but says she is ready to share hi again with the community he serves.
"These officers out here are somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother," Proctor said. "And you never want to see somebody else go through that. But he was called to do it. He has a giving spirit. He has a protective spirit and to not share that with the world would really be selfish."