Location: Somerset, Kentucky
Date: January 21, 1992
Three times a week, Pastor Dale Osman visited nursing homes and hospitals in and around Somerset, Kentucky, spending time with ailing members of his congregation. Residents of the rural community found comfort and reassurance in his kindness. But as he headed for home on January 21, 1992, he never once imagined he would be the one reaching out for help.
When Dale found that the door window to his house was shattered, someone was in his basement and went hiding when he entered and called 911, reaching Somerset-Pulaski County dispatcher Randy Tartar, who knew him. "It was Dale Osman; he's a preacher at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I've known him for several years; he's a good friend of mine," Tarter recalled. Assistant Supervisor Lt. Don Smith stated, "It seemed to be a normal call, just a residential burglary."
While on the phone with Tartar, Dale began to hear noises from his basement, grabbed his gun, and went down there to investigate, and was firing at the suspect, who shot him with his own gun, a .22 caliper. Smith could see that it was a gunshot. "No other sound sounds like a gunshot." "I've been shot!" Dale shouted. "Get an ambulance! I've been shot!"
"I had been in training for two weeks and been on the radio for one week, but I was shaking, because that was one of the first major calls I had ever taken," recalled Tartar. Smith took over the call, trying to get more information. "Where were you shot?" "In the leg!" "Who shot you?" "I don't know who he was." Dale could not get a towel to stop the bleeding. Smith's concern was for the distance between the responding ambulance and Dale. "Mr. Osman lived 15-20 minutes from our base," he explained. "But that's not 15-20 minutes as you or I would get in our Sunday vehicle and drive, that's 15-20 minutes wide open as fast as you can go in an ambulance."
Dale said, "Call my neighbor get someone to help me." Smith said, "But from day one we were taught in dispatch, never hang up. Dale needed help bad, and the nearest unit was still 15-20 minutes away. I had to make the call." Smith tried calling, but got no answer. When he tried calling Dale back, the line was busy. By the third attempt, Smith, becoming pretty panicked himself, advised the incoming ambulance the scene was unsecure.
Smith finally made contact with Dale, Dale called someone else to come over, and began to give a description of the suspect, who had a brown coat and blue jeans. He also stated that there was no vehicle leaving the residence. Within 10 minutes of the shooting, Dale's friend, J.C. Tarter, got to the residence. Tarter saw that it was hard to get his pants leg up and the bullet looked like it cut the main artery.
Tarter advised Smith on Dale's condition, advising, "He's in a lot of pain. If they've got a good accelarator they need to use it." Pulaski County Sheriff's Deputy William Ryan assessed Dale as soon as he got to the scene. "He was in a lot of pain and his leg was swollen," recalled Ryan. "His left leg was swelled up three times as big as it should be. I didn't know if he was going to make it or not."
Paramedic Mark Perkins and his partner arrived within 25 minutes. Perkins said, "The first thing I noticed was Dale screaming halfway down the driveway. A .22 caliber weapon is one of the most dangerous handguns. It's a low-velocity weapon. A 9mm will go through the human body while a .22 will stay in and bounce around. So I had to worry about the bleeding, the bones, and what kind of damage this thing has done. I was concerned about the limb but not as concerned as I was about the whole life."
Because the major trauma center was in Lexington, more than 80 miles away, Dale was taken to the local hospital, Lake Cumberland Regional. He was examined by a team of doctors including surgeons Keith Sinclair and Don Brown. Brown said, "It was almost as if the bullet had eyes to go to the worst part." "It hit the artery as it branches off in 3 places," Sinclair said, "The bullet had tumbled taking out not only the artery supplying blood to the lower leg but also the nerve supplying feeling to the foot. I've seen people with injuries like his not only lose their limbs but also their lives." As Dale was rushed into surgery, his wife, Brenda, was left to cope with the uncertainty of whether or not he would survive. She gathered some friends, had a private prayer, and then realized it would be all okay even if Dale lost his leg.
Dale went on to recover. He asked his own physician what would have happened if he was airlifted to Lexington. The doctor said he would have lost his leg and possibly his life. He even performed a double wedding ceremony of his son and daughter. He said, "Yeah, I've been blessed."
Deputy Ryan warns people that if they return home and see that their house got burglarized, they should not go in. They should call 911 from a neighbor's or a friend's house. Dale realized that he made a few mistakes. He shouldn't have gone in the house or grabbed his gun and fired at the suspect.
The suspect was arrested and tried for burglary and assault but at Dale's request, was sentenced to only 5 years probation. "I feel prison would not have helped that young man," said Dale. He and Brenda are thankful to those who helped him.