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Assaults on valley police officers change lives forever

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - National Police Week is in just a few weeks. While there are memorials for fallen officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice there are no memorials for thousands of other officers injured in the line of duty every year.

"998! 998! he's still shooting at me", radio codes for an officer involved shooting on an audio recording.

Dave Logan knows all too well about officer assaults, the retired Phoenix Police officer took a bullet to the neck in 1992, he is now a quadriplegic.

"The shooting has shortened my life by about 10 years," said Logan.

Logan recently testified via video at a clemency hearing after the man who shot him asked for parole.

"There's just so many, and the attacks on officers are so violent... none of them are safe in an area anymore," said Erin Purce, a victim services advocate.

Erin Purce helped Logan navigate the court system. She is a victim services advocate with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, working with mostly law enforcement officers who are victims of the most serious assaults.

"I think i'm sitting around close to 200 cases, I would say about 50 of those are awaiting sentencing," she said.

Two and a half years after Phoenix Police Sergeant Leo Buffa was in a violent struggle with a gunman he's still in physical therapy for torn muscles and an injured back.

"I've had three surgeries, seven epidural's, spinal tap injections," said Sgt. Buffa.

Now assigned to a desk job Buffa will never work the streets again. Purce helped Buffa fight in court, getting the maximum 10 year prison sentence for the man who assaulted him, even though he was facing probation.

"10 years is nothing, I'm going to be permanently partially disabled for the rest of my life," he said.

Officer assaults happen all too often. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most recent statistics, close to 53,000 officers nationwide were assaulted in 2012. 32% were assaulted while responding to disturbance calls.

"There are very significant injuries, not just getting shot either. Car accidents, fighting with people, we've had people get punched in the face and head that have required very extensive surgeries," said Tempe Police Officer Michael Kells.

In Mesa, around 230 officers are assaulted every year. Phoenix Police have averaged between 900 and 1,100 assaults a year, but have seen an up tick in the past couple of years. Tempe Police say they averaged 84 aggravated assaults on it's officers last year.

"I can still vividly see everything that happened as clear as day in my mind seeing the barrel of his gun starting to swing up my right eye," said Kells.

Officer Kells was on the department for a year and a half when he came face-to-face with an armed robber who was fleeing Arizona Mills Mall in 2011.

"I felt at the time the safest place for the gun to be pointed was into my chest. Baseline was backed up with cars so stray bullets could have easily hit somebody... so I grabbed it, and I just stuck it here waiting for that first round to go off," he said.

But the loaded gun never fired, despite the trigger being pulled.

"It was days after this whole thing happened, we found out my wife was pregnant with our first child," said Officer Kells.

Last week the suspect, Roger Nelson, was sentenced to 26 years in prison for attempted second degree murder and aggravated assault of Kells. Purce and dozens of officers showed up to support Kells who's on light duty from another work injury.

"I think it's on every officers mind when they leave they may not come home that day," he said.

Purce recently saw many of the officers she's helped, at the funeral for Det. John Hobbs, who was shot and killed while pursuing a suspect last month.

"It was so hard because I saw so many officers, I knew their close calls, I knew they were almost ran over, I knew they violently fought with a defendant with a gun, I knew they were shot at," said Purce.

"Everyday they're so close to it happening to them," she said.

Purce says the threats can be just as bad as the injuries, like the officer who learned a defendant had ordered a hit on him and had already dug his grave.

Hear more from the officers in an extended interview here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJv1DYeGXk4

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