Carl Bryant said when his back doorbell at the 300 block of Farmer north of the Independence Square kept ringing at about 6 o’clock in the morning Jan. 21, he thought it was an emergency.
Unfortunately, it soon became one.
“When I looked around, I didn’t see anybody,” said Bryant, who had answered the door holding his handgun. “The neighbor, Jeff Wahl, was hiding behind the car.”
“It was dark out,” Carl’s wife Pam said, “and people that come to the back door are usually family and friends – this was neither. I guess he’d seen the gun, and they started fighting for it.”
Carl said he noticed Wahl a split-second too late. The neighbor, with whom he’d had no big problems with over the years, overpowered him in the Bryants’ driveway and started shooting.
Pam begged Wahl to stop shooting her husband.
“He just turned and started shooting me. I remember laying there talking to him,” she said, and they asked each other if they were OK.
Thanks in large part to emergency first responders, whom the Bryants met for the first time Thursday at Centerpoint Medical Center during a celebration of success stories in conjunction with Emergency Medical Services Week, they are OK enough now to recall that harrowing morning with local media.
Carl had been shot five times in the face, chest and abdomen, and he suffered a skull fracture from the ensuing fall. Pam took six shots in the left chest, right arm and right thigh.
“It was pretty bad to see your wife shot (six) times,” Carl said.
Firefighter Jesse George and fire captain Craig Sorgeon were the first paramedics on the scene, which is just a few blocks from police headquarters and the nearest fire station, having just started their shift.
“When we pulled up, the scene was hectic with the all the police – they were trying to just get everything squared away and make sure everyone was safe,” George said.
Wahl was surrounded in his home and surrendered to police later in the day. He faces two counts each of first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
Both George and Sorgeon recall the large number of available personnel on all fronts because the shooting happened during a shift change. Sorgeon said the initial call was for just one person, but fortunately another ambulance was available close by.
“What a team,” Carl said of the first responders. “They’ve done wonders. Really, we owe our life to them. They have a hard job; they have to work so fast.”
Getting the chance to shake their hands, he said, “goes pretty deep to the heart.”
“It’s wonderful,” Pam added. “You never think you’re going to meet the people that saved your life.
“God’s got something in mind.”
After making it through emergency surgeries, Carl and Pam spent a couple weeks in the hospital before going through rehabilitation at The Villages at Jackson Creek and then Mid-America in Overland Park. They’re still doing in-home rehab, Carl gets around in a wheelchair and Pam uses a walker, so recovery is not complete, but they know Thursday marked a reason for celebration.
“Their lives changed that morning, but they both know the outcome could’ve been different,” Angie Geigerich, trauma program manager at Centerpoint, said to the crowd in the auditorium during the celebration. “For them to take not just one, but two critically injured people, close to death ... is an exceptional job.”
“If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy life with our kids and grandkids,” Pam told the emergency personnel, including police officers and dispatcher, after they received framed certificates. The Bryants also received life certificates marking their “second birthday,” the day their lives were saved.
“It was a rocky road,” added daughter Kari Bryant, “but it did come out for the best.”