DALLAS - The two El Centro College police officers that were on duty the night of the deadly ambush on police are telling their story for the first time and revealing how they managed to save several lives.
Detective Corporal Bryan Shaw and Officer John Abbott work for the Dallas County Community College District Police. Shaw said he became a police officer to help people. Abbott said he became an officer so as not to sit on the sidelines. Both found themselves fulfilling those goals Thursday night then they were taking fire from a gunman.
The officers were guarding the Main Street entrance of the college during the protest against police brutality when shots rang out.
“I recognized it immediately,” said Abbott. “I knew it wasn't one of our weapons. It was something different, but I knew it was a rifle."
In those moments, DART Officer Brent Thompson was killed in the ambush right outside El Centro. Shaw and Abbott ran to the Lamar Street side of the building and opened the doors.
"There was still firing going on. I pulled back in, went out a second time and locked on to what turned out to be the suspect’s vehicle,” recalled Abbott. “DPD, at that point, was still exchanging fire."
Shaw and Abbott went to a weapons closet, grabbed bullet proof vests and guns and went back to confront the shooter again.
As the two officers helped Dallas police, Abbott began bleeding after the shooter's bullets sent shards of glass into his legs and arm. But he noticed an officer down on the sidewalk and ignored his injuries to help the wounded officer and pull him inside the building.
When Abbott rolled the injured officer over, he realized who it was.
“Turns out it was DART Officer Brent Thompson, a friend of mine. I tried to perform any medical aid I could at that point,” he recalled. “I'm a fleet Marine force corpsman. That's something that we've trained to do. It's not something I'd choose to reflect on too much."
Meanwhile, the shooter was in a stairwell.
"We noticed a trail of blood going up to a stairwell,” explained Shaw. “We made entry into the stairwell, received fire and that's whenever we went and met up with DPD and then started checking the first floor of the building."
Shaw and Abbott went to the seventh floor and found 30 students and faculty sheltered in place and took them to the basement. By that time, DPD was beginning their long negotiations with the shooter. And it wasn't until about two hours after the shooting when Shaw realized he had been shot.
"I got a break and was able to put my hand underneath my vest and pulled out some blood,” he remembered.
A bullet had grazed Shaw in the side. Both men say they did what they were trained to do. They believe their actions that night made a difference.
"That's our hope. That we caused him to change where he was going and were able to save other officers,” said Shaw. “That's what we were able to do by us getting to the Lamar side entrance and him firing on us. It took his attention off of someone else."
Shaw said he can only come to one conclusion as to how he and those with him survived.
“God protected all of us,” he said. “Because if you go back to where I was in an area about 3-feet wide and 3 to 4 feet wide and he shot like what 7 or 8 times, and I barely got grazed. I mean if God hadn't been watching over me, I wouldn't be here."
Shaw said his side is still sore and will go into surgery soon to remove bullet fragments from his stomach. Abbott said he was able to clean his wounds.
Both men have kids at home who know only that daddy got an "owie" at work.