ORLANDO, Fla. - Jason Hajek was just 24 years old, a rookie Orlando police officer doing the job he loved, when a July 23 traffic stop led to gunfire and a bullet tore through his bladder.
Whether through instinct, good training or a combination of both, Hajek managed to return fire, hitting his assailant. He took cover in some bushes and radioed his exact location and a description and direction of travel of the suspect, resulting in the capture of the career criminal.
Three months later, in an interview with Local 6, Hajek said he's recovered enough to do light desk duty, but eager to get back on the streets.
"As soon as I can run, sprint, jump a fence I like to say I want to be back as soon as possible," he said, hopeful he can return to the streets by January," he said.
While some might shy away from returning to a job that almost killed them, Hajek is not fearful.
"It's an occupation where who you work for are your neighbors,' he said. "It's completely the most, in my mind, the most altruistic of … occupations. …I love going to work at beginning of shift and I hate going home at the end of shift."
Of course, it beats the alternative -- not going home at all.
That almost happened when, police say, Hajek was shot by Demetrius Patterson, who had racked up 26 felony and 16 misdemeanor charges since he was nine years old. Patterson is in jail without bond awaiting trial.
"You absolutely never know who you run into, … you never know who is in the car, you never know what their intentions are," Hajeck said of conducting traffic stops.
Then came the gunshot.
"At first the adrenaline is so high, you don't feel it," he said, adding, "Subliminally, when I heard the gun shots and fell, it didn't register that I'd been shot."
"Ten, fifteen seconds after the incident had been completed, I kind of realized, okay, I've been shot," he said. "I never thought I was going to die."
He praises the incredibly quick response by fellow officers and Orlando fire paramedics, who rushed into an active shooting scene without body armor or other protection.
"The first pair of officers who were riding two in a car arrived within 90 seconds to two minutes after calling out what had happened on the radio," he said. "Within four minutes one of our lieutenants, who is also a paramedic, showed up."
He said he was in the hospital on a trauma table with 11 minutes.
A graduate of Bishop Moore High School, Hajek won appointment to the Air Force Academy, but an injury in basic training dashed his hopes of becoming an Air Force officer.
Instead, he enrolled at the University of Central Florida, with a goal of heading to law school and becoming a prosecutor, but on an assigned ride-along with local police, he said, "I got hooked, absolutely got hooked" on police work.
And he's still hooked, even though it will likely take him back to the same streets where he was shot.
"The area that I got shot in is unfortunately known as a high crime area," he said. "But if you go out during the day you see families, you see people going to church. It's a normal neighborhood. Unfortunately, at night that changes sometimes."
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