Friday, October 14th was a frightening and memorable night for Sunset residents, as police conducted a major neighborhood manhunt for a suspect who shot and critically injured an SFPD officer.
The officer, 25-year-old Kevin Downs, was admitted to SF General Hospital in critical condition. The man who shot him, 26-year-old Pacifica resident Nicholas McWherter, was also shot in the subsequent manhunt and arrest, and died two days later.
SFPD tactical unit set up near 26th and Vicente. Officers on scene asking people to stay back for "safety reasons" pic.twitter.com/5GeuVOXlVx— Cate Cauguiran (@CateCauguiran) October 15, 2016
Many feared for the fate of Downs, who was partially paralyzed in the wake of the shooting. "One centimeter down, and this may have been a fatality for the officer," acting SFPD chief Toney Chaplin told reporters at the time.
But our partners at ABC7 checked in with Downs, and found him well on the path to recovery, with hopes of returning to full duty later in the spring.
Downs, who lives in the North Bay with his wife, Corey, was one of several officers to respond to a 911 call at the Big 5 Sporting Goods store at Lakeshore Plaza, where McWherter was allegedly threatening customers. Downs and his partner chased McWherter on foot, and he fired three shots at them at nearby Everglade Drive, one of which struck Downs in the head.
As Downs was rushed to the hospital, police undertook a significant manhunt at Stern Grove, ultimately cornering McWherter at a playground near 28th Avenue & Vicente.
McWherter, who refused to relinquish his weapon, was ultimately shot by police, and died at SF General that Sunday. He was homeless before the incident, and is believed to have been suffering from serious mental health issues.
At SF General, Downs spent six days in intensive care, and had a titanium plate installed in his skull. He initially had no movement in his right leg, and was "very clumsy," he told ABC7. (A GoFundMe campaign for his recovery took in more than $38,000.)
But after months of intensive rehabilitation, Downs is once again walking. He and Corey have even returned to working at their nonprofit Ranchin' Vets, which they founded in college. It helps returning soldiers reintegrate into civilian life through paid jobs on farms and ranches.
Despite his near-fatal injury, Downs told ABC7 that he's glad he's the officer who was struck.
"There was definitely somebody with a greater power watching me that night," he said. "I'm glad it was me who was shot. I wouldn't have wanted to see my brothers in that position."
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