Local News

Officer's father: Son is eager to return to duty

Posted April 1, 2009 7:26 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2009 6:37 a.m. EDT

— When a friend called Randy Garner Sunday to tell him that his son, Carthage Police Officer Justin Garner, had been shot at a nursing home in the line of duty, he thought the worst.

“I was nervous. I knew he had been shot, but I didn’t know how bad (it was),” Randy Garner said.

Justin Garner, 25, is credited with stopping a gunman at the Pinelake Health and Rehab Center in Carthage on Sunday. The gunman shot and killed eight people and wounded three before Justin Garner’s single shot to the chest stopped him.

“Our deep condolences go out to the families of the victims of that nursing home shooting. But the damage could have been far worse for the entire town if it hadn’t been for a young officer, a 25-year-old policeman named Justin Garner, who displayed courage and character,” Vice President Joe Biden said during a stop in Duplin and Wayne counties on Wednesday.

Justin Garner was wounded in the leg during the incident.  Father and son were reunited after Justin Garner was released from the hospital.

“We hugged each other (and) told each other we loved each other,” Randy Garner said.

Randy Garner is bursting with pride over what his son did to save lives, but he also has strong feelings about the accused gunman Robert Stewart, who faces eight counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony assault on a law enforcement officer. He said the shootings make him “mad.”

Justin Garner was recovering with the help of his wife. The media attention forced the couple to leave their home and seek seclusion.

Randy Garner said his son has not discussed with him much about the actual shooting, but he has said he is eager to get back to work.

Though he knows the emotional scars from the tragedy will take longer to heal, Randy Garner said he believes his son is up to the task.

“He’ll be alright down the road. He’s going to be OK,” Randy Garner said.