ROCKVILLE -- Six months after a robber's bullet to his neck left Montgomery County Police Officer Kyle E. Olinger paralyzed from the chest down, he's talking about walking again and returning to the department as an investigator.
The 38-year-old officer who lives in Mount Airy spoke of his plans minutes after receiving a Medal of Honor, the department's highest honor and one that has been given to only three people before.
"I'm honored that they are honoring me," he said, "but they are the heroes. I did what every officer does every day. The heroes were the ones who went after cop killers knowing the danger."
Recalling the events of the August night that his instincts made him approach a car with men returning from a failed robbery attempt, Officer Olinger said doctors at the Washington Hospital Center gave him a 1 percent chance of walking again.
"I give myself a 99 percent chance," he said. "I will walk again. I believe that someday I will walk again and be an active officer again."
Saying he has "never been one to run away from confrontation," Officer Olinger said he will testify at the upcoming trial of the two men charged with his attempted murder.
Speaking of Terrence Green, the alleged shooter and Fadi Kadamani, who will be tried together next month, Officer Olinger said "They didn't scare me then and they don't scare me now."
Lauded by his commander, J. Mitch Cunningham for the "strength and courage that has made us a stronger and better police force," the officer said "it's the things you take for granted that are the challenge."
A man who ran a martial arts studio before he was shot, he said "I had to learn how to get dressed, how to move my body in the wheelchair and how to open doors and get up and down stairs in a wheel chair."
Allowing that he "can't stand not to be able to walk," Officer Olinger recalled the night of Aug. 13, when he spotted a car pulled over with the person in the driver's seat "hunkered down." He said he told everyone in the car to "get their hands up" before the front seat passenger reached down and he approached him from "what I thought was a safe position."
After he lay bleeding on the street in downtown Silver Spring, Officer Olinger said he didn't realize he'd been shot at first. But when he saw the uniforms, he realized that his fellow officers responded quickly and "saved my life. The true heroes are my fellow officers."
A passing taxi driver, Darius Saeed, who saw the officer lying on the ground and got the tag number of the fleeing car, was recognized with a Special Chief's Appreciation.
Back from intensive therapy at the Craig Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, Colo., Officer Olinger credited his parents, Ruth Ann and Warren for being "a solid rock for me" and said his girlfriend, Jeana King has taken care of him and "been there for me."
Asked what his 14-year-old son Justin said about the medal, Officer Olinger smiled and said "that's cool dad." The officer is a single parent with sole custody of the boy.
The medal was pinned on Officer Olinger at the end of a Winter Awards Program in which Officer Mary C. Davis and her K-9 partner Misha were honored for their role in tracking two suspects who Misha kept at bay by alternating between them.
Officer Norman W. Brissett was commended for his role in arresting the men responsible for what Commander Cunningham called "one of the most horrific crimes ever to occur to a member of our department."
The commander credited Officer Olinger for the capture of all the men involved because, "despite a significant loss of blood, he held his radio and gave a description of the car and the suspects." It was only later that the department learned that the men were returning from a failed armed robbery.
Donations to the fund established to help the officer with the expenses he's incurred have reached $300,000. They are still being accepted by mail to the Kyle Olinger Fund, c/o The Montgomery County Police Foundation, P.O. Box 8351, Gaithersburg, Md. 20898.