Wounded Raleigh officer, family face long road back
Posted January 10, 2019 5:43 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2019 4:42 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Police Officer Charles Ainsworth remained in serious condition at WakeMed on Thursday after being shot several times while on patrol Wednesday night.
"He was undergoing some very sensitive surgery last night," said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker, who spent time at the hospital with Ainsworth's family.
"He is holding on. That shows his strength," Baker said. "We continue to pray that he is going to be OK and praying for that family too."
Ainsworth was following up on a report that a car stolen during a carjacking last week had been spotted on Teakwood Place, off Schaub Drive near Western Boulevard in southwest Raleigh. Police said he was shot several times, including in the neck, as he approached the car.
"It was a tragic situation where he was really defenseless," said Rick Armstrong, vice president of a union that represents hundreds of Raleigh police officers and former president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association.
"It is a very difficult situation for everybody. Everybody is struggling. It was a horrific action taken against a very good officer," Armstrong said. "He had no chance to defend himself, and the person that did this – the evil in that person – it is just, it is beyond words the evil that this person has done to someone."
A Jacksonville native, Ainsworth studied psychology at North Carolina State University and graduated from the Raleigh Police Academy in December 2017.
"I would continue to ask the community to keep this officer in their thoughts and prayers. He has got, it's going to be a long way," Armstrong said.
Former Wake sheriff recalls getting shot
Former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison knows what lies ahead of Ainsworth.
Harrison had been a law officer for five years when he pulled over a speeding vehicle in 1972.
"There's no routine traffic stop," he said. "He turned into a subdivision, and the next thing I know, two of them jumped on me, and I was fighting for my life."
He was shot in the hand. He said he was lucky.
"Having walked the same walk with that person that has been shot, I can imagine what went through their mind because I know what went through mine," he said.
As Ainsworth recovers, Harrison said, his family will deal with their own pain. It's the burden law enforcement families always face.
"Every time we'd go out of the house, are we going to come back? It goes through their minds," he said.
Getting the call that a loved one has been shot on duty is "a living hell," he said.
"There's not a whole lot you can do about it because it's in the doctor's hands and God's hands," he said. "They're nervous, they're upset, they're angry, just like anybody else would be. Why did this happen? Somebody gives their life to serve and protect. A lot of things go through you mind."
Harrison said families mentally prepare for that day, hoping it never comes.
"When my daughter was in junior high school, I didn't realize how it affected my kids until she was writing a paper," he said, so he created a routine to let his family know he was safe at the end of every shift.
"When I came in the back door at night," he said, "I open the door, and I put my gun in a certain place and slam that thing, and she said she could turn over and go to sleep then because she knew Dad was home."
Mayor, governor express concern
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Gov. Roy Cooper both expressed their concern for Ainsworth and offered their support to him and his family.
"I think it really is an unfortunate but necessary reminder of just how much our officers risk personally every single day to protect this community," McFarlane said. "Thinking about their families, knowing every day, when their loved ones go to work, the potential something could happen."
"Yesterday, on National Law Enforcement Day, we thanked the law enforcement community for the sacrifices officers and their families make to keep us all safe," Cooper said in a statement. "Just last night, an officer with the Raleigh Police Department was shot and critically injured. We're keeping him in our thoughts and pulling for his recovery."
The last time a Raleigh police officer was shot on duty was on Nov. 30, 2016.
Police had responded to break-in at a condominium off Avent Ferry Road, and when the suspect charged at them with a knife, Officer C.N. Chandler tried to subdue him.
Another officer opened fire, hitting both men. Chandler was shot in the leg but recovered.