'I hope they can find the healing I found'
What started out as a routine call in 2003 changed former Anoka County Sheriff Deputy Dustin Reichert's life.
Reichert and his partner responded to a report of loud music in Andover.
The suspect greeted Reichert with a handgun and the incident ended in an exchange of gunfire that the killed the suspect and wounded Reichert's arm and pelvis.
His physical wounds eventually healed, but the emotional toll lingered for much longer.
The event catalyzed Reichert's years-long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. But the shooting, he said, was not the singular cause for the PTSD onset.
He compared the experiences law enforcement and military servicemen often face to a shaken-up soda bottle.
"For me, it was all bottled up," he said. "It's not necessarily the trauma causing the problem, the trauma's just the final release. We have 10-plus years of people not understanding PTSD, and I get them not understanding it. There's still a stigma behind it today."
Challenging misunderstandings about the mental health condition is among Reichert's goals for his premier book, "10-88! Officer Down," a first-person retelling of the shooting and his journey through the chaos that followed.
Born in Red Wing, Reichert moved to North Minneapolis with his mother when his parents divorced, but would frequently visit his home town.
He grew up fascinated by the police scanner in his father's Wisconsin home, which sparked his interest in law enforcement.
Police officers responding to a family emergency Reichert witnessed helped solidify that interest, as did the television show "Cops."
"I spent many nights waiting with with my girlfriend to go out because we had to watch 'Cops' first," he said.
Reichert specialized in researching drugs and gang violence as a patrol officer and later a detective with the Anoka-Hennepin Drugs & Violent Crimes Task Force.
He retired from the Anoka County Sheriff's Office in 2005 and launched a career as an entertainer and motivational speaker.
He agreed to speak to a group of sheriff's department personnel about the shooting.
Although he gave the talk, he realized he wasn't fully ready to talk about his experiences and took to writing instead.
"It was just writing out what happened and it was therapeutic," he said. "As I did it, it was just to get it out raw. I wasn't really planning on a book."
The chance to organize his thoughts and emotions, he said, was a cathartic process. His first draft was angry. But he re-wrote the work several times, each new draft "a little more gentle and with a little more clarity."
Some of that anger remains in "10-88!," but Reichert said he hopes his story highlights the law enforcement professionals' struggles and urges readers — both law enforcement and civilians — to never stop seeking positivity, even in dark moments.
"I ask that once you start the book, you finish it," Reichert said. "There's no point of getting to the anger and stopping. Something has to happen, and I hope they can find a positive outcome. I hope they can see and find the healing I found and that is possible in any negative situation in life."
More information about Reichert and how to purchase a copy of his book is available at www.10-88officerdown.com.