“Give it to Me Straight”: Barbara’s Story

Officer Ryan O’Connor of the Arnold Police Department was shot by a suspect he was transporting. His wife, Barbara O’Connor, relives the tragic events of December 5, 2017.

Barbara shares, “Ryan always told me he knew without a doubt that the BackStoppers would rise to the occasion should our worst fears became reality. And they did”. Barbara recalls her interaction with her husband moments before he was shot. “He was somewhat frustrated that everyone else was out searching for the suspect and he was stuck securing the home that had been burglarized. I jokingly said to him, ‘You’ll end up being the one to bring the guy in.’ There was a squawking on his radio and he quickly said, ‘I’ve got to go’ and he hung up.”

Within minutes, Barbara, who was traveling with her children, saw emergency vehicles in front of her. “In that brief moment while sitting at a complete stop during the road closure, I sent one simple text message to my husband. It read, ‘Please tell me you’re okay’.” Upon confirmation of Barbara’s worst fear, she had to remain as calm as possible. “The fear tried to take over, but as I glanced into the rearview mirror at our little ones, I knew I had to keep it together.”

Barbara rushed to the hospital and attempted to gather herself at the beginning of what would be a very long night. “I made it down the long corridor to Ryan not knowing what I was walking into. I made it to the room, and saw his eyes were swollen shut. He had been shot point blank in the back of the head. I turned to the neurosurgeon and said, ‘Give it to me straight’. The doctor said, ‘In all likelihood, he will never walk again, never talk again, never breathe on his own and if he ever wakes up, he may never understand anything that’s being said to him, but we won’t know if we don’t try’. I pointed to the door and said, ‘Go. I will take this man anyway I can get him’.”

During the hours that seemed to last for days, Barbara felt the presence of support at the hospital in her first encounter with BackStoppers. “There were more than a hundred police officers standing vigil in the halls, but two people immediately caught my eye: Chief Ron Battelle and Chief Jim Silvernail. I could see the concern in their eyes. To be honest, I could barely look in their direction because I knew they were hurting just as much as I was. Chief Battelle gave Ryan his first job in policing in 1997, and I knew the connection ran very deep.”

The world for the O’Connor family came to a halt that night but pressing concerns about her family’s wellbeing came into Barbara’s mind like an uninvited guest. “I was hit with the weight of so many questions and fears about the future. I ran through every unimaginable scenario in my head. ‘How am I going to pay the mortgage? How am I going to afford medical insurance for all of us? What about schooling for four kids?’ The list goes on.” Amongst the despair was a glimmer of light; Officer O’Connor survived the night.

“When he made it through the night, we called it a huge victory, but, of course, my mind was stuck in survival mode. ‘How are we going to do this? Whatever comes next, I’ve got to figure this out’.” BackStoppers stepped in immediately. “Chief Battelle handed me an envelope and said, ‘This is for you to do whatever you need for your family’. While all of us were focused on what would happen next with Ryan, this incredible support lifted a million pounds off my shoulders. I was able to stop worrying about how to make ends meet, and just appreciate every moment with Ryan.”

Officer O’Connor is continuing his recovery journey and constantly beats the odds. The BackStoppers will be with the O’Connors every step of the way. “I cannot think of another organization with the kind of heart the BackStoppers has for fallen and catastrophically injured first responders. From emotional support to needed resources to financial assistance, they stop at nothing. Ryan and I are honored to be a part of the BackStoppers family. While we never dreamed we would have to walk through this, our challenges are so much easier to face because of the support from The BackStoppers and from all the supporters. Thank you!”