Hillsborough County

'I just knew I was going to die' -TPD officer recalls being shot

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) -- A former Tampa police officer knew he was dying after a suspect opened fire on him in 1995.

"I just knew I was going to die. It was given. I was scared. I knew that if I closed my eyes, it would happen," Kevin Howell told WFLA.

Howell was one of several officers pursuing a car of armed robbery suspects in east Tampa.

When the car crashed, the suspects started shooting.

One of the suspects unleashed a flurry of bullets on Howell and another officer, but something kept Kevin Howell alive.

"You start getting this extreme terrific sharp burning pain," Howell said.

First responders ran past the danger to save the injured officers, who were dangerously close to bleeding to death.

"A corporal took off his belt and applied it as a tourniquet," Howell said.

In the days and weeks following the shooting, the community rallied around them.

RELATED: How a near-death experience changed my life

Nearly 5,000 people showed up to donate blood, which is something Howell will never forget.

"It's seeing the community stand behind the cops," Howell said as he fought back tears.

The support gave him the determination to push forward, even after he was told he would never walk again.

"I've got three 8-inch rods in my right hip," Howell said.

Two years and 13 surgeries later, he put his Tampa police uniform back on and continued to work for more than a decade.

He had a new lease on life and returned to the very streets where he nearly lost his life. "It felt right. It was the best job I ever had," Howell said.

Howell also spent years giving back to the community, giving blood as often as he could, and even becoming a spokesperson for the agency for a number of years.

"It was my way of thanking them," he said.

These days, Howell works as head of security at the University of Tampa and spends his time off with his wife and two children. "I have a family that is remarkable," he said.

As for the man who nearly took it all away, "He got seven life sentences with the possibility of parole after 131 years," Howell said.

Despite the man's cowardly act, the grueling recovery that followed, and the pain that the former officer will live with for the rest of his life, he admits he wouldn't change a thing. Howell believes everything happened for a reason, and it led him right where he's supposed to be.

"I got so many things that I appreciate now, I'm afraid that if I would change that, it wouldn't happen. So, I don't want to change it. I wouldn't change the pain. I wouldn't change the surgeries. I wouldn't change anything," he said.

"The miracle to me is that I woke up to the fact that I can do better and I need to do better. That's what I continue to try to build upon. And If I can carry that on and make sure my children understand that, then that's the miracle."

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