Pat Carruth’s Story: Life After An Unfortunate Death

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On February 20, 2003, Patricia Carruth spoke to her son, Officer Jeremy “Jay” Carruth early that morning to confirm their lunch plans. Officer Carruth, a father of two little girls and recent returned military veteran, planned to finish what was supposed to be a simple job of arresting a man wanted for the possible attack of another police officer, and then call his mother to meet up for lunch. But she never received that call.

Anthony Molette declared war on the Alexandria Police Department officers by planning to execute police officers and members of the S.W.A.T team while safely boarded up in what appeared to be an abandoned house. What the officers did not know is that Molette had enough ammunition to hold off the police for days and had placed high powered weapons at every window and point of entry. When officers arrived and attempted to break down the door, Molette open-fired. Officer Carruth was shot first, twice in the head and died immediately on the porch.

For over an hour, Molette continued to take down officers due to his enormous amount of ammunition and high powered weapons. Officers were issued one, sixteen round handgun with two additional magazines, but were not required to carry the additional ammunition with them. The Alexandria Police Officers’ weapons and amount of ammunition were no match for Molette. As officers were quickly running out of ammunition and not able to receive more due to the location of the shooting, Molette continued to rage.

After receiving a call that the simple mission had turned into a shooting, Carruth headed to her son’s house, where she prayed she would receive confirmation of his safety. Her son lived only six blocks away from the scene, therefore Carruth was able to hear the endless string of gun shots from her son’s front yard. After what seemed like hours to Carruth, the gunfire ended. Molette was finally taken down but only after killing Officer Carruth, Officer David Ezerneck and seriously injuring three more officers.

I remember thinking ‘God, please just let it stop,’” Carruth said. “I just kept thinking ‘I need to get down there to help some mother of one of the fallen officer’ because I knew there was no way it could be my son.”

But it was. Carruth was picked up at her son’s house by Sergeant June Murdock and taken to CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital. It was there around 3:30 p.m. that Carruth’s oldest daughter informed her that her son had been one of the two officers killed. But Carruth only took a few moments to gather herself before she was motivated to pick herself up and take care of what needed to be done.

“You never quit grieving when you lose your child. I am still grieving every day, but you learn to live with it and learn to keep moving,” Carruth said.

In the past eleven years since the day Molette changed many people’s lives, Carruth has also changed many lives but for the better. Because of what happened to her son, Carruth has dedicated her life to helping other families cope with loss and tragedy. Carruth now serves as Vice President for the Louisiana Board of Concerns Of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S), an organization dedicated to rebuilding shattered families of fallen officers. Carruth is also the Regional Coordinator for the South Central region for C.O.P.S. and is a Trustee for the National Board of C.O.P.S. Her work consists of taking care of finances, making sure the families of officers killed in the line of duty receive all benefits, filling out paper work for those families, counseling, managing hundreds of volunteers that assist with 30,000 people at Police Week in Washington D.C. every May, along with many other responsibilities.

“Helping other people has helped me move forward. We have chosen to survive this traumatic event and we choose to use what we have to help others survive their traumatic events,” Carruth said.

Along with her duties on the multiple boards, Carruth was also instrumental in changing several procedures at the Alexandria Police Department, as well as educating the community about law enforcement with the help of Captain Murdock. Murdock has been on the C.O.P.S board as the Liaison for the Alexandria Police Department for nearly 10 years. The woman Carruth met on the worst day of her life has now become her closet friend.

Through contact with the Mayor of Alexandria, Carruth petitioned for a pay raise for Alexandria Police Officers. A year later the officers finally received their pay increase.

“I spoke to the Alexandria Mayor at Jay’s funeral and insisted he give those boys a raise,” Carruth said. “It was one of the last things Jay and I discussed doing before he was killed.”

An increase in the amount of ammunition an officer carries has also changed. Officers used to only carry what they were issued but now officers are allowed to carry an unlimited amount of additional ammunition, long riffles and personal weapons upon certification.

“When we realized how much ammunition he [Molette] had, we went to every nearby pawn shop looking for more guns and ammo to bring to the men out there,” Murdock said. “I really think it would have made a difference if those officers would have had more ammunition.”

Along with ammunition increase, officers are now trained more often and more extensively. Basic officers are required to participate in a week long training, and the higher the ranking officer, the more extensive the training.

“Before the incident, the SWAT Team was lucky to train once a month, but now they have training every week and are better equipped for dangerous situations, similar to the incidence with Molette,” Murdock said.

This horrific incident redefined the Alexandria Police Department, as well as police departments in Louisiana and surrounding states.

“When my husband, Charles, was at a retreat a few years ago, a man from Kansas City, Missouri told him, ‘Your son’s incident changed the way we handle our weapons and how much ammunition we can carry,’” Carruth recalled.

Losing a son, uncle, friend, father and only brother to three sisters has been hard for the Carruth family, especially with family members not coping the same way Carruth did. Molette took her son, but she was not going to let him take the rest of her family.

“I was angry, but I wasn’t carrying his dead body around with me. I had forgiven him [Molette], and I know that bothered a lot of people,” said Carruth.

Carruth believes her faith in God and mission to help others is what kept her going all these years. The past eleven years have been filled with so many emotions for the family, but Carruth says her family has dealt with it and is at peace.

Carruth and Murdock continue to change, train and education individuals through the Alexandria Police Department, the C.O.P.S organization, as well as police departments around the nation. Some of their future work includes an ex-wives group at 2015 Police Week for the ex-wives of fallen officers. Carruth believes those women have never really had a place to be at Police Week, and does not want another person to go through the pain of feeling alone.

“Pat is an inspiration to so many people that go through this. She doesn’t realize it because she is so humble, but she really is such a great role model, a great healer,” Murdock said. “She has this way of reading people, looking into them and moving them in the right direction.”

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Bryan Jaeger’s Story: How a series of unfortunate events lead to the love of his life

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October 18, 2006 was a rainy Wednesday in Eunice, Louisiana. Rain coats were on, umbrellas were up and practice was canceled for the Louisiana State University in Eunice baseball team. On that day, lightning struck a couple of apartment complexes. Also on that day, a young man would strike his head so forcefully, he would break his neck and never walk again.

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Bryan Jaeger graduated from Haughton High School in 2005. Haughton is a quaint town on the outskirts of Bossier City in Northern Louisiana. This small community believes in religion, knowing your neighbors and Friday night football. After high school, Jaeger attended LSU-Eunice to play baseball, where he was instrumental in the team’s 2006 Junior College World Series Championship win.

Life was good for Jaeger. A new school year was underway, his team just won a world championship and he was a recent recruit for the Colorado Rockies, Major League Baseball Team. Little did he know, tragedy was not far from Eunice.

Because baseball practice had been canceled, Jaeger and the rest of his teammates decided to play football in the rain. On his way to the muddy field, Jaeger jumped over a ditch, lost his footing and slid head-first into a drainage ditch. The impact caused Jaeger’s head to jolt backwards, breaking the vertebrates in his neck.

“I remember I could see everyone’s faces and I knew something was wrong,” Jaeger said. “I didn’t know then that you could break your neck and still be alive.”

Because lighting struck apartment complexes nearby, fire fighters were nearby to take Jaeger to the Eunice emergency room. After a few days of heavy medication, he was air lifted to LSU Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The night before his surgery, Jaeger was told he had a serious spinal cord injury and would never walk again. His C7 vertebra was fractured and his C6 was completely shattered. Both neck bones are essential for brain connectivity and function to the lower body.

“I didn’t believe it. I’ve always been the type of person that wants to prove people wrong, and I’ve always been such a hard worker.  Baseball was my life ever since I started walking and in an instant it was gone. Every year when the draft happens, I get a little down. It’s a tough day for me,” Jaeger said.

Most spinal cord injury victims do not get their arm strength back, but because Jaeger was an athlete and his arms and back muscles were already strong, his strength returned within months. During more than six months of physical therapy, Jaeger learned how to live a new life, the life of a 19 year old in a wheelchair.

The next several years would be filled with more changes and challenges than Jaeger had expected. In 2010, Jaeger suffered from a pressure sore, due to a cut on the back of his leg. A pressure sore is a deep cut that only heals from not putting pressure on the spot, and are common in wheelchair bound individuals. Not putting pressure on a pressure sore is almost impossible for someone confined to a wheelchair. Jaeger finally had surgery to completely heal his sore, but only after two and a half long years of bed rest.

As fate would have it, on July 30, 2013, Jaeger suffered terribly again when he was admitted back into the hospital. While at work, Jaeger passed out and was rushed to the Willis-Knighton emergency room in Bossier City.

Doctors and nurses soon realized Jaeger was in a state of crisis due to the illness of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection in the bloodstream. Jaeger also suffered from a urinary tract infection, pneumonia and kidney stones serious enough to cause acute renal failure. There was a serious chance that he would not survive.

During his unconscious stay, Jaeger was moved to several different floors, until he finally placed back on his original floor, but this time under the care of a nurse named Samantha Maddry.

While under the care of Maddry, Jaeger finally awoke after being unconscious for two weeks. He briefly met his new nurse but was still in and out of consciousness for the next several days. He began to speak again but only in broken sentences and repetition.

“He just kept repeating, ‘Samantha is my nurse. Samantha is the hot one,’” Maddry said, laughing at the embarrassing memory.

Jaeger subconsciously developed a crush on his new nurse, which he soon learned he already had many connections to through several friends and various community members.

“I am thankful for that stay in the hospital for a couple of reasons. I was so sick and could have died, but this experience brought me back to a good relationship with God. Also, meeting Samantha was pretty amazing,” Jaeger said.

On August 23, 2013 Jaeger was discharged from the hospital. Five days later Jaeger celebrated his 26th birthday and invited Maddry to dinner with him and his family. Having reservations because of her professional position, Maddry confided in friends and family if going was a smart decision.

“I just got to know what a wonderful person he was and how sweet his family was,” Maddry said. “After talking to my parents and praying about it, I decided to go, and I am so glad I did.”

After several dates and almost constant communication, Jaeger and Maddry officially began dating a month later. Seven months after that, Jaeger proposed.

“She has brought me a happiness that I didn’t think was possible,” Jaeger said. “I thought marriage was something that would be a long time down the road, if it ever happened. I never thought I could find someone that could look past the disability and accept me for me, not just as a guy in a wheelchair.”

The two are to be married this November and plan to live happily ever after in the small town of Haughton.

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Today J will do an introduction

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Hi! The name’s Thomas. Julie Thomas.

My name is Julie and I have brown hair.

My name is Julie and I have brown hair.

This is my first blog post (obviously) and I have created the blog for my crisis communication class. I am currently a mass communication graduate student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. GEAUX TIGERS! I have always wanted to create a blog so the assignment from my class was perfect timing.

I love communication and cannot wait to share my thoughts, insights, experiences and much more on this blog. You never know what I will say or what topic I will present for discussion, but I can guarantee that it will always be interesting, at least to me. This blog was created because of an assignment in my crisis communication class, so it will most likely include assignments from that class, but it will also feature other topics to my interest.

I think it is important to understand a bit about me in order to realize where certain discussion will derive from. I have always been from Louisiana, but recently relocated from Shreveport (north LA) down to Baton Rouge (south LA and the state capital). I am a foodie, especially when it comes to spicy food. I previously worked for the Shreveport-Bossier Tourist Bureau, but now I work for the Baton Rouge Tourist Bureau. If you don’t know what your local tourist bureau does, other than pass out brochures, please go to http://www.google.com and educate yourself on the many, wonderful things your city’s tourist bureau is doing for you and the area you live in. Also I consider myself a movie maven, as well as a pop culture connoisseur. Ask me anything about popular culture and if I don’t have the answer, I will look it up on my favorite app, IMDB (Internet Movie Database). Last but not least, I have a passion for wine and John Mayer.

Me and the ghost like figure of John Mayer behind me.

Me and the ghost like figure of John Mayer behind me at his concert in Dallas, TX in 2013

I am not to big on long, strung out goodbyes, so I will make this short and sweet. Make sure you check out this blog regularly for the next thing J will say.