The night of Dec. 21, 2016, started out as just another normal patrol shift for Saraland, Alabama Police Officer Jackie Tucker. Answering a routine domestic violence call, Tucker and another officer sped to a Saraland home and pulled into the driveway.
The officers knocked on the door and began to deal with the domestic violence issue – everything was merely routine at this point. But in a back bedroom a grandson, Blake Richardson, decided to take matters into his own hands. Brandishing a 40 caliber semiautomatic handgun, Richardson came into the front room and shot Tucker in the head. Her partner exchanged gunfire with Richardson, mortally wounding him.
Tucker was rushed to the University of South Alabama hospital in nearby Mobile with severe head wounds. She survived the shooting, but the long, slow path to recovery has proven tedious and painful. After several weeks, she was transferred to an outof- state rehabilitation facility.
“I could only describe her situation as a roller coaster improvement,” says Saraland Police Chief J. C. West, a veteran officer who retired in 2015 from the Montgomery, Alabama police department to become Saraland’s police chief. “She has good days and bad days, good one day and not so good the next. We have no idea how long she will be at that rehabilitation center.”
In stepped Wounded Blue, a relatively new Alabama policemen’s benefit organization dedicated to helping wounded police officers. In a ceremony at the January 2016 Winter Conference of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, Wounded Blue presented a large check to Chief West to be used to help cover travel expenses of Tucker’s family to the rehabilitation center.
“That money went directly to the family,” says West. “Her family is not well off, and this helps them with travel expenses. This is wonderful – it takes some of the stress off the family. We received it about the time we had to transport Jackie to the rehab center. It was a real blessing.”
So who or what is Wounded Blue?
Formed in Madison, Alabama, near Huntsville, in early 2016, Wounded Blue is modeled somewhat after the nationally known Wounded Warriors program that raises funds to help with rehabilitation for wounded U.S. service personnel. Board chairman and Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge describes Wounded Blue’s purpose as helping those wounded in the line of duty to get back to work, or if that is not possible, to help them make their lives more comfortable.
“We’re similar to Wounded Warriors, except that ours is a law enforcement mission,” he explains.
Incorporated as a nonprofit corporation, Wounded Blue is able to receive and distribute donations from a variety of sources including corporations, foundations and private individuals.
A number of law firms across the state have donated to Wounded Blue, and some are quick to express their support.
“We’re often called upon to defend police in many situations. When situations get ugly, law enforcement officers usually have to make snap decisions that can often involve use of deadly force. We’re proud to support Wounded Blue,” says attorney David Stubbs of Stubbs, Sills & Frye in Anniston, Alabama.
Just over one year old, Wounded Blue aims to expand its reach beyond its northern Alabama roots. For 2017, the board plans to expand Wounded Blue’s mission across Alabama.
“We’ll travel around the state to visit police and sheriffs’ associations, as well as other law enforcement organizations,” Partridge says. “Our intent is to let them know we’re here, and that we will be here if the need arises.”
The board is excited about the possibilities. Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation executive and Wounded Blue board member David Sikes proposes that the organization devote some of its funds to buy body armor for officers.
“We have so many police and sheriff departments across Alabama that simply don’t have the budget for this type of thing. Obviously, these officers take a greater risk in shootout situations. We want to see if we can do something about that, but it all gets down to budget issues.”
Board members agree – it all comes down to helping law enforcement officers. “We ask a lot of police officers. They put their lives on the line, and when they get hurt doing this, we want to help them with their financial struggles,” says Sikes.