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Police sergeant shares survival story at National Prayer Luncheon

Sergeant Katie Lawson of the Oklahoma City Police Department tells her story of survival to National Prayer Luncheon attendees April 1 at the Tinker Club. In August 2010 while she was patrolling an Oklahoma City neighborhood, a gunman opened fire on her, hitting her six times. After her full recovery, she requested to go back out on the same streets as before the shooting. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

Sergeant Katie Lawson of the Oklahoma City Police Department tells her story of survival to National Prayer Luncheon attendees April 1 at the Tinker Club. In August 2010 while she was patrolling an Oklahoma City neighborhood, a gunman opened fire on her, hitting her six times. After her full recovery, she requested to go back out on the same streets as before the shooting. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, -- "I give all the glory to God."

That was the message Sergeant Katie Lawson of the Oklahoma City Police Department wanted to share as she told her story of survival during the National Prayer luncheon April 1 at the Tinker Club.

On Aug. 29, 2010, Sergeant Lawson sustained six gunshot wounds while assisting an Oklahoma County deputy with a traffic arrest.

Her assailant, 18-year-old Hector Escalante, tried to distract officers from arresting his father, Victor Mercado, for driving while under the influence. The young attacker opened fire with an AR-15 and shot 26 rounds into Sergeant Lawson's police car. Six shots hit her -- in the chest, back, buttocks, leg and one bullet skimmed her right cheek and pierced her ear.

"It happened so fast, less than a minute. He just opened fire," she said. "I thought, 'Is this really happening?'" Her second thought was to get her own gun. She remembers leaning over for it while he advanced on her. She put the gun out the window and started firing.

When her assailant turned to flee, Sergeant Lawson said she wanted to give chase, but quickly realized she was unable to run due to her injuries. "It was like I had heavy bricks on my feet," she said.

Sergeant Lawson called for backup and an ambulance. Her partner was already on his way and was there in seconds.

"It was the greatest feeling seeing those lights and knowing that someone was there with me and I wasn't alone -- although I never really was alone, but there was another officer there with me," she said.

In court, the shooter pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life plus 10 years in prison. In Oklahoma, life is equal to 45 years. His brother, Alex Mercado, received three years for accessory.

Sergeant Lawson was off duty for four months and has since returned to patrolling the streets of Oklahoma City. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could still go back and do it and not let the evil acts deter me from my dream and my plans," she said.

Sharing her favorite Bible passage, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13), Sergeant Lawson said she is grateful to God and for all the prayers that went up for her..

"Sometimes we feel helpless, but there is always something we can do," she said. "We can pray. God listens. Pray for our (troops) who give us the freedom to pray. Pray for one another."

And pray they did. During the luncheon, prayers for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, for the Army and Air Force, and for the nation were led by Chaplains (Cmdr.) Timothy White, (Maj.) Scott Nupson and (Lt. Col.) Dwight Magnus.

To close the National Prayer Luncheon, everyone at the Tinker Club sang "God Bless America," led by Sergeant Ashley Peters of the Oklahoma City Police Department.

For her bravery, Sergeant Lawson has received numerous awards including a Purple Heart and Medal of Honor from both the Oklahoma City Police Department and the State of Oklahoma Chiefs of Police Association. She received the Top Cop and Citizens Choice awards, presented in Washington, D.C. She has also collected a variety of other awards from different organizations. She appreciates the numerous awards and acknowledges her training and the heroic actions of her fellow officers.

"Most of all I am thankful for God's glory," Sergeant Lawson said. "He saved my life that night. And for that I am forever thankful."