FLORISSANT, MO –(KMOX)–He can move his arms freely, but he can’t feel his feet. That’s how a fellow officer describes the condition of Officer Michael Vernon, who was shot three times by a burglary suspect early Monday.
The 33-year old Vernon, who had served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, was ambushed by a man who sprang from a dumpster and opened fire behind the Surrey Plaza shopping center.
Vernon was assisting officers in the search for a burglary suspect, or suspects, who were heard running from a backyard with fences rattling in the 2800 block of Banstead Driver around 2:35 Monday morning. A burglar alarm had brought officers to the house where they found a door ajar.
The suspect in the dumpster fired five shots, police said, hitting Vernon in the chest, shoulder and leg. He was wearing body armor, and police say Vernon never had a chance to draw his gun.
“Right now he has paralysis, and we’re hoping it’s going to be just temporary paralysis,” said Captain Sean Fagan, “The doctors are giving us a pretty positive outlook on that right now.”
Vernon was hospitalized Tuesday afternoon in critical, but stable condition. Police indicate he had not yet undergone surgery yet, as doctors were still evaluating his conidtion.
The injured officer’s demeanor was described as positive, and he’s able to talk.
“This man is truly a hero,” Fagan said, “If you ask him, he’s not going to let this affect him, and he’s going to recover 100 percent, regardless of what anybody tells him.”
Florissant police thanked the some 100 officers from surrounding departments who responded after the shooting to assist in the manhunt, and cordon off the neighborhood where they reportedly found the suspect hiding in a garage with a gun believed to have been used in the shooting found in a yard nearby.
The suspect, Brian Lamont Cannon Jr., 20, was charged with assault on a law enforcment officer, burglary and armed criminal action.
Police were asked about reports that Cannon might have been in jail for past crimes, except for the decision of a judge. A St. Louis County judge who had sentenced Cannon to seven years in prison in 2010 for burglary and theft in Ladue and Clayton gave him a suspended imposition of sentence with 120 days jail shock time and a five year probation.
“That is the court system we have in place,” said Captain Randy Boden, “I know that it’s there recomendation and it’s what the time they are given.”
Other police in the room could be seen shaking their heads, but a public relations officer cut short the line of questioing saying, “That’s more of a speculation question. We’re trying to deal with the incident that happened yesterday.”