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HPD officer shot at work 20 years ago returns to substation

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It made national headlines when it happened: A Houston police officer was shot at point blank range by a stranger who walked into a police substation.

Twenty years ago, Sgt. Daniel Vaughan wasn't expected to live. But on Wednesday, Vaughn walked back into the South Central Substation a survivor.

Vaughan still remembers the day he was shot.

"As I moved the gun away from my face, the guy pulled the trigger. The bullet went through the skin of my left arm -- there's a scar there. Then the bullet went through my right eye, through the brain into the back of the skull, bounced off the back of my skull and ran into more brain and stops," Vaughan said.

People were shocked that an officer could be so brutally ambushed inside a police station. But they were amazed that Vaughan survived.

It was a celebration when he left the hospital six months later. He'd had 15 surgeries and painful rehabilitation. He lost his right eye, hearing in his left ear, and is partially paralyzed on one side. But he was alive, and the celebration was even noisier when he got home.

Twenty years later, Gilbert Smith is still in prison and Vaughan walked back into South Central with his wife, Beth Vaughan. But he stays humble, always remembering how close he came to death.

"You've got to have God's blessings to achieve anything, but with his blessings and your willpower, it can be done," Vaughan said.

"Our family is a lot stronger than it ever has been," said Sgt. Vaughan's son, Danny Vaughan.

Vaughan never understood why he was shot, but he forgave the gunman.

"In order for me to go on with my future I have to let go of my past. And part of letting go of my past is forgiveness," he said.

"When something like this happens, you look back at your life and say, 'What can we do to help other people who are in this situation?'" Beth said.

"That's what we've been doing," Vaughan added. "I was a victim during the shooting. After I survived, I became triumphant."

These days Vaughan does motivational speaking, law enforcement training, and has started American Way fishing charters. He also has a driver's license.
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