JEROME – In the hours after Jerome Police Officer Dennis Clark was shot during a Feb. 7 high-speed pursuit, calls came flooding in to his fellow officers.
One of the first, Detective Dan Kennedy said during a Saturday fundraiser and appreciation dinner for Clark, was from Boise Police Department representatives who asked how they could help. That question came before Clark was loaded on an air ambulance bound for Boise, where doctors would treat the officer for a nonfatal shotgun blast to the face.
The keepers of the 512 Fund, which helps injured officers injured in the line of duty and their families, knew Clark was headed their way, and knew they could help.
“We know that the trauma center is here in Boise,” 512 Fund Director Wade Spain said. “Any officer hurt in the state is likely to be coming here, where we know the area.”
On Saturday, Jerome’s police and fire departments also showed their appreciation for the fund named in remembrance of Boise Police Officer Mark Stahl, who was killed in the line of duty in 1997. Stahl’s badge number was 512.
As Becky Houser, Clark’s mother, drove to be with her son on the day he was shot, she received a call on her cell phone. She was offered a police escort from Mountain Home directly to the hospital. There, 512 Fund trustees met her and took her directly to Clark’s room. They had a hotel room reserved and gave her gas and food cards.
The Boise Police Department also provided a 24-hour honor guard outside of Clark’s room during the five days he remained in the hospital while undergoing two surgeries.
“All the officers were so respectful and such a big comfort,” Houser said Saturday. “The 512 Fund was just really, really great.”
Kennedy said Saturday’s event was Jerome’s way of giving back — a way to thank those who helped care for its native son.
“Donations have been phenomenal,” one of Clark’s fellow officers and volunteer firefighters, Rick Bernsen said. “Dennis is just an outstanding person. I couldn’t do what he’s done, nor would I want to. A braver thing I’ve never heard of.”
Clark, who has recently returned to light police duty, attended Saturday’s event, greeting friends and supporters. He spoke of how he continued pursuing convicted felon Christopher Taylor, even after his windshield had been shot out.
“There was a lot of pain and blood, but it wouldn’t have done any good to just sit there on the side of the road,” Clark said. “The last thing I wanted to do was start something and not stop it.”
Clark pursued Taylor for three miles after they exchanged shots, finally ending the chase by ramming Taylor’s car, causing him to lose control. Taylor is charged with four felonies related to the chase, and is scheduled for a July jury trial.
Clark has lost sight in his left eye from the shooting, but he hopes to return to patrolling Jerome within eight weeks.
“When you think of a policeman, you think of them in that patrol car,” he said. “At this point, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Police Chief Dan Hall said it’s his department’s intent to return Clark to full duty.
“There have been others cases of patrol officers with monocular vision,” Hall said. “As long as he demonstrates he’s capable, I have no concerns for him coming back. We’re making our decisions based on how he feels and how the doctors feel.”
Clark thanked those who have supported him on Saturday, and in turn, Jerome police and firemen presented the 512 Fund with two $500 donations for their part in Clark’s care.