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Odessa police officer shot twice remembers Aug. 31 shooting

Corporal Santana was shot twice, once in his hand and his thigh.

ODESSA, Texas — No matter where you were or what you were doing, the date August 31, 2019 makes all West Texans pause. The events of that day rocked our community and changed more than two dozen families forever. 

We all carry that day with us in our own way – quite literally for Cpl. James Santana.

“It’s strange how a matter of seconds can change you forever. Something can take something away or give you something you didn’t have before. It’s with you for the rest of your life,” he said.

Cpl. Santana is one of the victims of the mobile mass shooting. He was shot twice while responding to calls of victims on Aug. 31st – once in the hand and in his thigh.

“There are still those black spots where bullet fragments are left,” he says looking down at his hand. “It still aches. They said that’ll take a while, probably years to go away. Sometimes it still gets stiff and sometimes it pops and hurts and I just have to take care of it.”

He has spent the last year rehabbing his injuries and returned to duty full-time, only now as a detective. Cpl. Santana only recently began opening up about what happened to him on Aug 31st. He shared his story with NewsWest 9.

He was on duty that day. It was a Saturday.

“I was headed to another call when we got a report from dispatch that a trooper had been shot in Midland on I-20,” he said. “I was going north on East Loop 338 at the time, I knew I wasn’t too far away. I turned around and headed east on I-20 when dispatch said there was another victim along I-20.”

He soon drove up on one of the victims who had been shot in the leg.

“I’m staying there doing what I can to help him. Dispatch said the shooter was back on the north loop. So, I tell the ambulance, he’s headed this way, do what you can and get him out of here,” Santana said.

He and a few other officers held that scene to wait for a gold sedan driven by the suspected shooter – it never came.

“That’s when victim, after victim, after victim started coming out,” he said. “I said that we needed to go. From there, I was responding to victim, after victim, after victim on the east side of the city.”

In the middle of the chaos, information came out that the shooter was at Cinergy and shots had been fired.

“We got to Cinergy and there was nothing there, so we start to leave,” he said. “I headed west on Dr. Emmitt Headly, the street behind Cinergy. I was looking at my computer screen for details of another victim and two bullets came through my door. It just happened so fast.”

Santana says he immediately knew who had shot him.

“I saw a white minivan coming up, it didn’t register at all that it could’ve possibly been him. So when the bullets started hitting my door, I thought, ‘Oh no’....I thought I was done,” Santana said.

He wasn’t done. While injured, he jumped into action to help a fellow officer, also shot.

“Honestly, my first thought wasn’t myself. I knew that Owens behind me was hurt. I didn’t know how bad but I turned and he was covered in blood. I tried running, well I hobbled as fast as I could,” Santana said.

At one point, Santana said he planned on driving himself to the hospital but his sergeant stopped him. He was sent to the hospital in an ambulance with another gunshot victim. His injuries required surgery – he was released several days later to applause from co-workers and hospital staff.

He says beyond the physical scars, working through the emotional pain has been a journey he did not expect.

“For a long time I felt a lot of shame for not stopping him,” he said. “I feel like it’s my job, my responsibility to stop him…but instead, he got past me.”

Though today, Santana views that day differently. He knows he played an important role on Aug 31st.

“Him shooting me and Officer Owens alerted everyone else. He was moving fast. We passed each other and by the time he shot me, a few seconds later they stopped him at the Cinergy.”

He says that day changed everything for him – especially how he views police work.

“When people call police, it’s not good. A majority of our interactions with people aren’t positive. But now, I’ve been making it a point to see the good, find the good.”

While he carries physical pieces of that day with him, Santana believes our community’s strength is what defines Aug 31st, not evil.

“This is us as a community legitimately rising up and overcoming something he tried to do. We’re all here to talk about it. He’s not.”

You can watch the full video of Corporal Santana's interview here.