Bearing witness against Serial Shooter suspect - East Valley Tribune: News

Bearing witness against Serial Shooter suspect

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Posted: Saturday, November 15, 2008 7:10 pm | Updated: 3:45 pm, Wed Jun 19, 2013.

He sits every day in the front row of the gallery, quietly watching a parade of horrors, sometimes nodding, mostly staring straight ahead.

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One after another, witnesses take the stand in the downtown Phoenix courtroom, each talking about some ghastly injury or murder. All the while, Paul Patrick sits nearly motionless and listens.

The physical pain and psychological damage caused by the Serial Shooters, who authorities say cruised the Valley in 2005 and 2006 looking for easy targets, are as real to Patrick as they are to anyone. He was shot like many of the others. Blasted by a shotgun while walking alone at night.

He still carries inside his body 100 pellets that doctors were never able to remove. He still wakes up with nightmares and throbbing pain.

Whatever almost anyone says on the stand about the time he or she was shot or the day a loved one died, Patrick can relate to it.

And that's why he's quietly watching the trial of Serial Shooter suspect Dale Hausner.

Patrick, 48, sees himself as "the face of the victims."

He is one of at least 17 people who authorities say survived the cruelty of Hausner, a Mesa man accused in a 14-month string of shootings, which included eight killings.

The court has allowed victims to sit in on every part of the trial so far. It is a courtesy not extended to other witnesses like police officers or medical examiners.

But since opening arguments took place on Oct. 6, Patrick has been the only survivor in court every day.

In an interview on Friday, a day after he testified in the case, Patrick said he sees himself as sort of an unofficial representative of the many lives taken or changed by the shooting spree.

"It's my beautiful duty," Patrick said. "They're not just going to be insignificant names. There's going to be a face to this. It's going to be human."

NEAR DEATH

In any number of ways, Patrick almost didn't make it to the sixth-floor courtroom. For one, the shooting nearly killed him.

On June 8, 2006, he was walking alone in the dark at about 11:30 p.m. from his home in west Phoenix to a nearby convenience store at 78th Avenue and Indian School Road.

He didn't notice when a car pulled alongside him on Indian School with the barrel of a shotgun sticking out the passenger window.

He heard the bang and felt the impact at nearly the same moment. Even at close range, the shotgun pellets spread enough to hit him everywhere from his collarbone down past his hip. The majority of the blast hit him right in the abdomen.

Even now, Patrick tries to find the words to describe it. "Like a sledgehammer," he said. "It's as if somebody's trying to push a brick through me. I've never been hit like that in my life."

Patrick stumbled along the side of the road that night, blood flowing from his side, enough of it, he said, that his sandals began to slip on the concrete sidewalk.

He tried to yell for help. But no sound came out. He tried again, but again nothing. There wasn't enough breath left in him to call out to the passing cars.

Then Patrick looked across the road and saw a figure running his direction. The man had a .45 caliber pistol in his hand and was coming at him quickly.

"I actually thought he was coming over to finish me off," Patrick said. When the man got close, Patrick uttered what he thought were going to be his last words: "Just be quick."

The man wasn't there to kill him, though. In fact, he had just called 911 from his house across the street and sprinted over to try to help Patrick. He brought the pistol for protection in case the shooters came back.

The man's name was Saul Guerrero, and Patrick now calls him "a hero."

As Patrick fell to the ground, losing blood by the second, Guerrero, who could not be located for this story, kept him awake until emergency crews arrived.

When Patrick closed his eyes, Guerrero would flick his eyelids or shake him, telling him to stay awake. "He just kept irritating me, just making me mad, just keeping me there," Patrick said.

The two men stayed there on the sidewalk for uncounted minutes before flashing lights appeared.Rescue crews took Patrick to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and police searched the area but did not find the shooters.

At the hospital, Patrick went into surgery and soon slipped into a coma. He was unconscious there for nearly three weeks, just barely hanging on to life.

CONNECTIONS WITH OTHERS

During that time, Phoenix police Detective Clark Schwartzkopf visited his room in the intensive care unit several times. Schwartzkopf had been assigned to investigate a number of random shotgun shootings that had taken place across the Valley in the past month or so.

Schwartzkopf took a few photographs of Patrick lying in the hospital bed, tubes coming out of his nose and abdomen, his face swollen.

In court on Thursday, Schwartzkopf testified that he thought Patrick would never recover.

"To be honest with you," Schwartzkopf said, "I thought the next call I would get would be from the medical examiner to report for his autopsy."

Near the end of June, though, Schwartzkopf got a different call - from Patrick's brother. Patrick was awake and being moved to another hospital.

In the 2 1/2 years since then, suspects Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman have been arrested in the shooting spree. Dieteman has already pleaded guilty to two murders and a handful of other crimes, including the shooting of Patrick, and he has agreed to testify against his former friend, who has pleaded innocent.

In that time, Patrick has undergone so many surgeries that he lost count - he says it's been "eight or nine" - and his psychological recovery has been just as grueling.

Until only about a year ago, he said he was afraid to leave his home. Loud noises disturbed him. So did cars passing on the street.

He underwent counseling paid for by the state and says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition often associated with war veterans.

"You know how you'll sit, and you'll feel OK?" Patrick said. "That will never be like that again." A short time later, he added: "Psychically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, it's there with me. I'll take it to the grave with me."

Patrick still uses a motorized scooter to get around. He can walk, but it's slow and painful. Sometimes when he's standing, he falls to the ground and doesn't know why. He says it's "humiliating."

During his recovery, he has often been unsure about whether he would agree to testify or even show up at the trial.

Even Thursday morning, just before he took the stand, he said he thought about "chickening out." It was almost too much to face Hausner or tell his story aloud.

He did it, though. His mother, Mary, was there in the courtroom that day, as she has been every day alongside him. He says the support of his friends and family has been a major part of the process.

Patrick tried to look at Hausner from the witness stand.

But every time he did, he said, Hausner would look away. "The coward kept looking away," Patrick said. "He knew what I was doing."

Patrick's testimony was not as long or as detailed as the story he told in the interview, but it may have represented a turning point in the trial.

Before he testified, the jury knew nothing about the man who rode daily into the courtroom in his scooter and sat in the front row alongside his mother.

Now, though, until the trial ends sometime next year, Patrick hopes he will be a constant reminder of the damage done by the Serial Shooters. To the jury, he hopes his presence will represent more than just three felony charges among a litany of dozens of others.

"I'm not just 52, 53, and 54," Patrick said. "I'm Paul. Flesh and blood. A little less flesh and a little less blood, but I'm there."

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