DURHAM — It’s been almost 15 months since State Trooper Michael Potts was shot during a traffic stop.
“I’m very thankful that I’m able to be here today,” the veteran officer told more than 150 officers, elected officials and family members of fallen officers Friday at Grey Stone Baptist Church on Hillsborough Road.
Potts, then 42, was shot twice in the face, his right shoulder and his hands after he pulled Mikel Brady over on U.S. 70 just east of Durham on Feb. 18, 2013, in part because Brady wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Brady was on probation with federal authorities following a conviction for theft of explosives and was on the run from a Vermont prison furlough program.
As Potts approached the car, Brady stuck his gun out of the window and shot the trooper four times. Potts managed to make it back to his car and radioed in a description of Brady and the car he was driving.
Potts spoke at the 28th annual Durham County Peace Officers Memorial Service that honors officers killed in the line of duty. The crowded church went silent when he spoke.
“We do what we do because we love to do it,” Potts said. “This is who we are. If I would have succumbed to my injuries that day, then I would have died doing what I loved.”
Potts talked about being a “pretty good” baseball player – he briefly played in the major leagues – but realizing his love was law enforcement. He said his father was a police officer who also survived being shot while on duty.
“I thought about how hard it must have been for my mother who lives in Georgia to get a call that her son was shot while on the job,” he said.
Potts thanked the families for letting their loved ones do what they love to do on a daily basis.
Potts is back at work on the highway and doing what he says he was meant to do.
“I look forward to moving on and putting this stuff behind me and moving on with my life,” he said in an interview.
Some officers were not as fortunate as Potts was.
Eleven officers lined up in the aisle to honor 10 Durham officers and one Asheville officer who have died in the line of duty since 1913. One by one, an officer walked forward and stood at the front of the podium as a speaker read the name and cause of death. Some had died in a car crash or other accident. Others were shot, and one man died of a heart attack.
“It’s important to note that these families have lost their loved ones and the pain is forever and there’s nothing the community or any ceremony could ever do to ease that pain or recover their loss,” Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said. He said any day could be an officer’s last, and it’s important to remember those who have died as the years go by.
Michael Potts’ wife, Lauren, said the day her husband was shot, she and her young son tried to remain calm. She said she understood when he went back to to work three months ago.
“He’s a trooper, and that’s what he loves to do,” she said.
Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1