Shot to Hell

Duy Ngo, The Minneapolis police officer wounded by one of his own colleagues in a February drug stakeout, speaks out for the first time

When Ngo first returned from his two-week stay in the hospital, he had to sleep on the couch in the living room. The various fluids that continued to ooze from his body made sharing a bed with anyone impossible. Even now his bandages need to be replaced constantly. Ngo, who is also seated at the kitchen table, points out the bottles of pills next to the refrigerator, what he refers to as his "drug cocktail." There are eight different containers: painkillers, muscle relaxants, nerve pills. Despite the heavy medication, he too has trouble sleeping. "Being tired and being able to sleep are two different things," he says. When Ngo does manage to get some shut-eye it is plagued by nightmares. "Anybody who gets shot at point-blank range that many times is going to have nightmares."

Ngo has lost 20 pounds since the accident, reducing his once muscular frame to 140 pounds. He attends physical therapy three times a week and does daily exercises to rebuild his strength and mobility. Ngo's gait is marked by a pronounced, stiff limp, his weight disproportionately falling on the right leg. He can no longer lift up his baby daughter in his arms. "She puts her arms out," Mary laments, "but he can't pick her up and she doesn't know why."

Mary has dropped 15 pounds herself. There's no physical explanation for her weight loss.

The pain is financial as well. Ngo estimates that he was making $2,000 to $3,000 per month by picking up overtime and off-duty work prior to the accident. He had planned to return to Vietnam this summer for the first time since leaving as a toddler, but now there's no money for the trip. The injuries have put his military career in jeopardy as well. With 13 years of service in the Army reserves, he was only seven more away from being eligible for a pension.

Ngo has not decided if he will pursue legal action. "I don't have any plans right now," he says. "I'm not going to make any decisions too hastily. Right now I have every reason to go forward with one, but I'm still going to give them the opportunity to make this right."

Soto-Ngo is hurt by what she feels has been a lack of support shown for them by the police department brass, particularly in the days when her husband was still hospitalized. "I just find it very strange that nobody came to see him," she says. "I question why. It would have really lifted his spirits. As the days went by, reading the newspapers, it was kind of like Duy was a lamb they put out to slaughter."

Even so, she won't stop her husband from returning to the force--if he is ever physically able. "I think that it's Duy's choice. Duy went into the police because he loved it. I've never been opposed to it. I'll be a little more frightened this time around."

At some point Ngo will be free to tell his version of exactly what transpired that night when the two officers arrived on the scene. He believes the facts will ultimately vindicate him. "They'd be better off if I died that night," he says. "Dead men don't tell tales."

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