Deputy nearly killed in shooting says he has ‘blessed’ life
OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — David “Oz” Osborne said that as a sheriff’s deputy, he was trained to handle life-threatening situations.
And like other law enforcement officers, Osborne knew there were situations that called for extra caution, such as going to a domestic violence call or a robbery, or while making a traffic stop.
But it was the most seemingly routine day that almost got Osborne killed.
“I practiced,” Osborne said last week. “I went to officer survival courses and kept myself physically fit. But I didn’t prepare myself for what happened to me.
“It was the unexpected,” he said.
On May 27, 1989, Osborne, a Daviess County sheriff’s deputy, was serving a restraining order when he was ambushed and shot four times by Darrell Perry at Perry’s residence on Old Hartford Road. Osborne was also severely beaten with Perry’s handgun, survived two attempts by Perry to shoot him in the head, and was so close to being run over by Perry that he felt the car’s tires rub the back of his shirt.
Osborne was left partially paralyzed for a time but regained his ability to walk. Osborne receives physical therapy for his injuries to this day.
The incident and injuries weren’t the end of Osborne’s career in law enforcement. He returned to the sheriff’s department where he retired as chief deputy, and was then elected Daviess County clerk. He retired from that office at the end of 2018.
Osborne often shares his story and uses it as an example for others. He has spoken at the FBI law enforcement academy and the state police academy, but also with students, churches and community groups.
Osborne said he doesn’t look at what happened to him as ill-fortune.
“I do tell people, I can’t separate my story from my faith,” Osborne said last week. “In all the places I spoke in 30 years, I tell people, ‘I don’t stand before you a crippled man. I stand here a blessed man.’
“I never anticipated where I’d be” 30 years later, Osborne said. ”... It was a hard road, but my faith and my family and the community, to this day, rallied and supported me.”
May 27, 1989 was a Saturday, and Osborne had what seemed like a non-threatening assignment to deliver a restraining order to Darrell Perry at a home in the 9700 block of Old Hartford Road. As part of the restraining order, Perry had to vacate the house.
It was after 8 p.m. when Osborne arrived and made contact with Perry. Sheriff’s deputies often serve papers and this interaction didn’t seem at all unusual to Osborne, he said. Perry didn’t act belligerent or angry.
“There was no threat,” Osborne said. “They teach today about threat escalation and you prepare for that. But when I went and served those papers that May evening in 1989, there was none of that. Darrell Perry and I never raised words.”
If there was a red flag, it was something Osborne only realized in retrospect.
“The only thing he said was, ‘Why are they doing this to me?’ ” Osborne said. “I told him, ‘Mr. Perry, I don’t know. I’m just doing my job.’ ”
Osborne asked Perry for the keys to the house, but there was nothing in the restraining order that required Perry to hand over the keys, so he refused. With the papers served, Osborne turned to leave.
″‘Have a good night,’ were my last words to Darrell Perry,” Osborne said.
As he walked back to his patrol car and reached for the door handle, he heard the first gunshot.
“He had a .38 caliber (handgun) in his car” and had pulled it out while Osborne was walking back to his vehicle. “The first shot went through my left arm and entered my left side.
“I never felt it,” Osborne said. “The sound startled me.”
When he turned, he saw Perry in a perfect shooting stance, he said. Training kicked in, and Osborne started doing what he’d practiced: He tried to get behind his car, which was parked behind Perry’s vehicle. At that point, the second bullet struck Osborne in the flank.
“A piece of that bullet, about the size of a pencil lead, sliced my spinal cord,” Osborne said. Two other shots hit him in his heel and left hip.
Perry’s gun held five bullets. “The only shot he missed me with ... went through the brim of my hat,” Osborne said.
Perry ran to Osborne and jumped on him.
“He put the gun to my head,” Osborne said. “He pushed my head into the gravel and I closed my eyes and I thought that was the end.”
Osborne heard the click from Perry’s empty gun.
Survival training kicked in again, and Osborne and Perry fought. During those seconds, Perry struck Osborne “over 25 times” with Perry’s gun, fracturing Osborne’s skull.
“I had a semi auto (handgun) and I pulled it, Osborne said. “When I pulled it, I pushed the clip release. I didn’t even know I did it.” That chance action saved Osborne’s life.
Osborne tried to shoot Perry, and Perry managed to take the gun away from Osborne and again tried to shoot him in the head. With no clip, the gun was empty. Osborne said Perry tried to chamber a round, but there was no round to chamber.
“He said, ‘You’ve got one of these fancy automatics,’ ” Osborne said.
“Thank God I had one of those fancy automatics. He didn’t know how to load it.”
Perry took Osborne’s keys, got the restraining order and shoved it in Osborne’s mouth. “He said, “How do you like it ...?′ ” Osborne said.
Perry then got in Osborne’s patrol car and began backing up, rolling over the back of Osborne’s shirt and pants. Then, Perry left.
Clarence and Mary Hulsey had been home most of that Saturday, but they decided on a whim to drive into Owensboro for some ice cream. In those days, there weren’t a lot of other homes in that stretch of Old Hartford Road, and not much road traffic.
The couple were on their way back home when Clarence Hulsey saw the first indication that something was wrong.
“I saw a hat laying at the edge of the road,” Hulsey said. “I said, ’There’s a hat laying there, and my wife said, ‘There’s somebody laying in the driveway.’ I ran back there and (Osborne) said, ‘I’ve been shot.’ ”
There was a blanket in the couple’s car, and Clarence put the blanket over Osborne to comfort him, and then sent Mary to find a house and call 911. Clarence stayed behind to do what he could to keep Osborne calm, and waited.
“The guy (Perry) had his car and left,” Hulsey said. Osborne “was afraid he was going to come back.”
“I was sitting there, holding his head and trying to keep him calm, and he said, ‘I do believe he’s going to come back and kill me,’ ” Hulsey recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll stay with you.’
He and Osborne saw a sheriff’s patrol car approaching. They didn’t know who was inside.
“The car is pulling in, and (Osborne) is thinking it’s his car,” Hulsey said. “I’m not sure we aren’t both going to get run over.”
Instead, it was other sheriff’s deputies, who immediately drew their firearms. “I said, ‘I’m just trying to help him,’ ” and the deputies rushed to help, Hulsey said.
What was fortunate, or a miracle or whatever else you want to call it, is that the Hulseys were on the road to find Osborne at all that evening, Hulsey said.
“It’s unusual for us to run in and get ice cream, but that night, we did,” Hulsey said. “We were glad we were there.”
Sheriff Keith Cain was a detective with the sheriff’s office in 1989 and wasn’t on duty at the time of the shooting. But as a detective, Cain was on-call and was sent to the scene.
“I was at home mowing my grass and the call came in,” Cain said. “I remember those words vividly, ‘Oz has been shot.’ ”
Deputies were at Perry’s home when a second call came in -- Marty Hayden Jr., the grandson of Perry’s estranged wife, had been shot in the stomach. Perry had gone to Hayden’s house looking for his former wife. She was at the home, but Hayden denied it, and Perry shot Hayden and fled.
Suddenly, deputies had two crime scenes. Cain and Kentucky State Police Detective Gerald Nickens worked the investigation day and night. The night of the shooting, the department’s deputies were in a highly emotional state.
“We were traumatized,” Cain said. “Any officer who would’ve been shot would have been traumatic” for us. But the deputies all liked Osborne and were particularly upset.
“It was hard to contemplate Oz could’ve made anyone mad enough to have shot him,” Cain said.
“We were getting updates from the hospital,” Cain said. No one working the scene knew if Osborne was going to survive.
“We actually had to make officers go home,” Cain said. “They just wanted to stay and do something.”
Many wanted to go search for Perry, although they had no idea where he could be, he said.
After also shooting and seriously wounding Marty Hayden Jr., Perry fled the state in his van, driving to Florida and staying for a few days before driving back to Owensboro and turning himself in to sheriff’s deputies.
Cain said Perry had contacted a local attorney who arranged for Cain and Nickens to meet with Perry so he could turn himself in. They met at the Masonic Building across from the sheriff’s office.
“We brought him back across the street to the sheriff’s office, and word had spread” that Perry was coming, Cain said. “There were a number of officers there who wanted a piece of Darrell Perry.” Against his attorney’s advice, Perry gave a detailed statement, laying out many details of the incident that Cain later read to jurors at Perry’s trial.
Perry was charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault. After a trial, which was moved to Bowling Green due to pretrial publicity, Perry was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
“I was in the hospital for six weeks, and then I was in rehab for another two months over in Evansville,” Osborne said. “The doctor told me the third day I was in the hospital, ’You’re never going to be able to walk again. You’ll never be able to have kids.”
But, one day in the hospital, Osborne discovered he was able to move one of his toes. He called a nurse, who confirmed he was, in fact, moving. Over time, Osborne regained his ability to walk and resumed his career at the sheriff’s office.
After retiring as chief deputy, Osborne was elected county clerk. He also has a large family.
“My biggest blessing, beyond my wife, is I have three children and five grandchildren, and (doctors) said I wouldn’t have any,” Osborne said.
Such as experience could warp a person, make them permanently angry or regretful. That didn’t happen with Osborne.
“I absolutely have laughed more than I’ve cried over 30 years,” Osborne said. “You can’t take it too seriously. A friend of mine lost his arm, and he said, ‘Oz, you only have two choices: You either get better, or you get bitter.’ ”
One day, Osborne received a letter from Perry, who was serving his time in a state prison in Eddyville.
“Darrell wrote me from prison. He said he was sorry and he asked me to forgive him,” Osborne said. Forgiveness “did not happen overnight, but it did happen.”
“When I wrote him and told him I did forgive him, it freed me,” Osborne said. “If you’re a Christian, your answer is, God has forgiven me for what I’ve done. ... If you profess Christianity then certainly forgiveness and mercy are tantamount to your faith. If you can’t forgive, what kind of faith do you have?”
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com