National Guard Sergeant Embodies Courage and Resilience After Gunshot

National Guard member deputy gunshot recovery
Col. Robert Reyner, 150th Special Operations Wing commander; Master Sgt. Jason Diamond; and another member of the 150th Security Forces Squadron run alongside Staff Sgt. Robin Hopkins as she completes one of her laps during her physical training on June 7, 2015. (Master Sgt. Paula Aragon/U.S. Air National Guard)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- It was just a regular day on the job for Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Robin Hopkins until the radio squawked.

For some, the next sequence of events might destroy their lives and kill their spirit. For Hopkins, a staff sergeant in the New Mexico Air National Guard, it became another way to inspire her fellow Guard members, family and friends.

When Hopkins heard the call on the radio that fateful day of the news of officers down and the suspect heading north on Broadway Boulevard, she reacted as she had been trained.

She headed out of the sub-station in pursuit of the suspect. Hopkins knew Broadway turns into Edith Boulevard when it crosses Candelaria Road. If he kept going north, the bad guy would drive right into Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office territory.

She added her "I'll be en route" to all of the others flooding into dispatch and got in her car, engaged her siren and sped south.

"He's ours," Hopkins told herself as she listened to the radio for his bearings and location.

The suspect had a stolen police car, firepower and something even more deadly -- the desire to kill cops. The suspect had a long history of mental illness and run-ins with the law. The masked man, who had "cop-killer" tattooed across his knuckles, died of gunshot wounds at a service station, according to media reports about the shooting.

Hopkins wouldn't know any of that until later. At that moment, she was thinking of how to head him off and put a stop to the police chase with the least risk to her fellow officers and civilian bystanders.

When Hopkins saw the stolen police car coming straight for her and then slow down, she had seconds to make a plan.

"He slows down, and I slow down. In a second, all these things go through your mind. I'm thinking I'll get in front of him and then he'll crash into me and then the guys will get him. That's my plan," Hopkins said as she recounted the events.

Hopkins had just started to turn her car into the oncoming lane when the suspect fired at her.

"When it hit the engine block, it was loud. I don't hear my siren. I don't hear the radio. I just hear, 'Crack!' I'm grateful, and just for a moment, I thought, 'I'm good,' because they always tell you that behind the engine block is a good place to be," she said.

In a split second, the suspect started to pull around her. Another shot hit her hood. Then the driver pulled parallel to Hopkins and fired once more before taking off again. The fourth round went through the driver's side door and hit Hopkins below her bulletproof vest, just below her left hip.

"When I got hit, I felt my leg just get big -- that's the only way I can explain it," Hopkins said. "I thought, 'It's not good.' I knew this guy was armed with something high-powered, and if I'm hit, it's just not good."

A call came out from Hopkins' unit, #234: "I'm hit, Fourth and Schulte."

Fast forward 20 months later, after countless surgeries and hours upon hours of physical therapy, Hopkins is still one determined, motivated woman. Her goal became to complete her physical fitness test during June drill.

With 100 members of her Guard family and two of her physical therapists cheering her on, Hopkins ran 1½ miles in 14 minutes, 58 seconds and completed her required sit-ups and push-ups, achieving her goal and passing her annual requirement to remain a security forces specialist with the 150th Security Forces Squadron.

"The support and camaraderie is what has helped me through this," Hopkins said as she looked at her fellow Guard members with a smile.

"Robin is the epitome of overcoming adversity. She has constantly helped our airmen when it comes to challenges they face and tells them, 'I can help you with that.' She is a mentor to our airmen and an inspiration. Now she is doing internally for herself what she has been doing for us," said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Hall, 150th Special Operations Wing command chief.

While passing a PT test may seem commonplace for an airman, doing so after a bullet shattered her hip, destroyed the main artery and caused extensive damage to the two femoral arteries -- limiting circulation to her left foot -- is noteworthy.

On the day she was shot, Hopkins had to come to terms with a possible amputation because the main artery was damaged severely. But on the day of her PT test, she was instead focused on three-minute laps.

"I have my leg," she said. "That's a blessing."

"When it comes to resiliency amidst a life-altering challenge, Robin is an inspiration to us all,'' said Col. Robert Reyner, 150th SOW commander. "During her recovery, members of the 150th stepped up to support, but throughout it all, her priority remained supporting, mentoring and motivating members of the 150th, selflessly serving and putting others' needs before her own. Staff Sgt. Hopkins in a shining example of what it means to be a citizen-airman.''

Said Lisa Duncan, physical therapist for Health South: "She has more determination than anyone I know. She is not a victim; she is a doer.''

"She was a strong motivation for other patients; I have never met anyone like her," said Nancy Beam, also one of Hopkin's physical therapists with Health South.

Despite what Hopkins has suffered, she still can see the big picture and knows there are individuals out there who are suffering. She plans to make a difference.

"That was the guy's intention, to kill cops," Hopkins said. "It wasn't personal; it wasn't Robin Hopkins. It was what I stand for, and I'm OK with that. But what I really want people to focus on is why. There is a great organization out there called Bring Change 2 Mind. The organization focuses on changing the stigma of suffering from mental illness. I want people to be able to get help without the worry."

The road has been long to reach one of many goals Hopkins has set for herself, but her determination and support from her family, friends and her Guard family will see her through one goal at a time. She already has managed to make a difference in many lives at the New Mexico Air National Guard. Airmen look up to her and admire her selflessness and determination to do the right thing.

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