Second Day, Second Chance
“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at and missed,” former press correspondent Winston Churchill once reportedly said.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Vernon Brake recently experienced that feeling firsthand. Just like any good action/adventure movie, Brake’s story includes all the requirements for a thrilling plot—danger, gunfire, bad guys and justice—and all took place during his second official day on the job.
Brake, an Edmond resident, graduated from the OHP Academy on September 23, 2006 and began his field training on the 29th of that same month. The training lasted 12 weeks then he was finally sent out on his own.
On December 31, 2006, Brake was patrolling near I-44 and Pennsylvania in Oklahoma City when he noticed a car driving erratically.
“It appeared to be a drunk driver,” Trooper Brake said, a common and even expected sight on New Year’s Eve.
Following procedure, Brake turned on his lights and pursued the vehicle. Instead of pulling over, however, the car turned north at Penn and then west into a residential area. Soon after that, shots were fired from within the vehicle.
Brake watched as one bullet came through his windshield, skimmed across the dash of his cruiser and embedded itself into the driver side door frame, missing him by only six inches.
Somehow, Brake managed to maintain his composure during the ordeal. Still in pursuit, his instincts took over.
“Everything I learned at the Academy just kicked in,” he said.
After the shooting, the vehicle turned onto 43rd Street. The car was abandoned shortly thereafter, with the two suspects taking off on foot. They began knocking on apartment doors.
Sadly, in a story confirmed by local television news stations, one door was answered by a mentally handicapped woman whose son, also mentally challenged, was subsequently beaten by the suspects.
Forty-eight hours later, both suspects—the driver and passenger of the vehicle—were arrested in connection with this incident. Brake said they have already been charged with breaking and entering and will also face attempted murder charges, a case in which he will have to testify.
Despite the drama of the events that unfolded, Brake was back on the job the next day. He remains upbeat, realizing that a certain amount of danger is part of the job.
He is in good spirits, even joking that the department does not give more time off after such incidents because Troopers “might have time to decide that they need another job.”
Brake’s wife, Melissa, also took the news of the incident well. He explained that she has an understanding of the risks and dangers of her husband’s job. The couple’s 13-month old son, Hayden also seems supportive of his dad and Brake is thankful for the second chance he has been given.
“This is something I felt driven to do,” he said of his job with the OHP. “I felt like it was put on my heart to do.”