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141 H IV J LI IvI/ Otlll CC Honor Roll, 7
A LIVING MIRACLE
BY DOUG R UTTER
Ever been to The Steamboat Restaurant in
It's a family place where the patrons don't or
der alcohol because it's not on the menu. The type
of place Mom likes to take the kids for seafood
when she's too tired to cook.
It's also the place where Dallas Pruitt's life was
dramatically changed on the night of May 29,
Pmitt, then a 17-year veteran of the Winston
Salem Police Department was moonlighting ?? a
security guard at the restaurant as he had done for
the previous four years.
Nothing exciting ever happened at The
Nothing until May 29, 1990.
It was shortly after 9 o'clock and Pruitt. in uni
form, was seated behind the front counter talking
with the manager and waiting for the final cui
tnmfK In filter nut
Suddenly, Pmitt heard the front doors shut.
Four street gang members had entered the restau
rant. Pru:tt saw only one. Six fat aw?y siuuu a
man dressed in a black "Ninja" outfit holding a
In a matter of seconds, Pruitt's life would
change forever. He stood and reached for his
Too late. The attacker fired two rounds from
his .357 magnum. The first entered Pruitt's chest,
just above the badge, and the second penetrated his
Somehow, the officer managed to pull his
weapon and shoot his attacker in the head, killing
But the drama wasn't over. A second gang
member crawled out from behind the counter and
went for Pruitt's gun. The officer fired two rounds,
wounding his assailant, who died two weeks later.
Pruitt watched as his own blood splashed on
the floor two feet in front of him. He collapsed,
certain he had been shot in the heart and w*? about
to draw his last breath.
The restaurant manager dialed 911 but was too
hysterical to speak. Pruitt took the phone and told
the dispatcher what he needed.
What he needed, and got, was a miracle. A
doctor and- mwbulwim wuni ? the vicinity and ar
rived at the restaurant two minutes iaici. One more
minute and Pruitt would have been dead.
As it was, he underwent four surgeries in a pe
riod of i2 hours. His weight dropped from 250
pounds to 140 pounds in two weeks. But he sur
vived and is healthier now than doctors at Forsyth
Hospital ever dreamed.
iff Survived Gang
Fear yc<ua '?tcr, Pruitt still duvw1! knew uuw be nuui
aged to take two bullets, kill both of his attackers and live
to tell about it.
"I shot back somehow. 1 don't know how. I guess my
training took over," he said in a recent interview at his
Booncs Neck home. "Somehow I pulled my weapon and
Pruitt, who retired on full disability in June 1992,
knows he's lucky to be alive and have a relatively strong
left arm, which doctors initially said would have to be am
Pruitt smiles and swings his arm. "As you can see it
still works. It doesn't work like a norma! arm and hand,
but it still works."
The injury forced Pruitt to give up golf and a few other
things, but he still enjoys gardening, hunting and fishing,
and spending time with his family.
Wife Melodee said the ordeal "was one of the toughest
experiences we ever went through as a family. I couldn't
nave goaen through it without my rntrn m tjod Cf tts !'jp
port of the community. There was just an out-pouring from
all over North Carolina."
Pruitt icvcived mute than 2,u0u "Get weii" cards and
SO flower baskets at the hospitai.
Although he underwent physical therapy for two years,
iwf more ?r oouo kittb
DALLAS PKlll t l was one of the highert decorated officers in
North Carolina when he retired from the Winston-Salem Police
Department in 1992.
riuiu icuupcu io wuk jusi three months alter the shoot
The two other gang members at the restaurant that
night escaped with about S300 in cash. They were later
caught and sent to jail.
A Mount Airy native, Pruin hmime a full-time officer
with the Winston-Salem Police Department on Feb. 8,
1973. If you ever plan to ask about his law enforcement
background, it's a good idea to find a comfy chair first.
"1 worked as a beat cop. ! worked in a special unit
caiied team policing. I went to planning and research tor a
short period. I worked as a detective in the crime against
persons bureau. I worked in narcotics, I was pronxxsd to
sergeant in 1987 and went back to the street I got shot in
1990 and that put me at a desk. After I came back to work
I went to work at internal affairs. I was administrative as
sistant to one of the assistant chiefs. I ended my career in
the support services bureau. Other than that I haven't done
All <w? cwr>>r?w man u/Ka H? ptiKlialwj in Jmu
force ment magazines and newspapers as a guest editorial
ist, Pruin says things changed for the worse in the 20 years
he worked as an officer.
"When I started out in 1973 the police had authority.
We could do our job," he said. "Bv the time I left in the
police in 1992 , their hands had become so tied."
One of the men who attacked Pruitt at the
restaurant was under "house arrest" a; the time
and had reportedly told his probation officer he
was working nights for a janitorial service.
"As far as I'm concerned the justice system is
a farce. People like you and me have to watch
over our shoulder all the time. The criminals
should be the ones doing that," Pruitt said.
The society has gotten away from 'What
can we do for the private citizen?' to 'What can
wc do for the criminal?' Si just seems reversed."
What's the solution?
"Take law enforcement out of the hands of
politicians and put it in the hands of law enforce
ment people," Pruitt suggests.
Pruitt doesn't agree with North Carolina's
new "three strikes and you're out" policy in
which people convicted of three violent crimes
are imprisoned for life.
"Why should we give a man the chance to
murder three people before he goes to prison for
the rest of his life?" he asks.
"1 think what we see now with people talking
about what they're going to do about crime is a
smoke screen. It's just politicians trying to get
you to pull their lever. 1 don't see any action. It's
"I'd like to see this country get back to
morals, family values and people working for a
living and trying to get along. That's the people
this country ought to be supporting, not the ones
committing the crimes."
Pruitt says drugs are available on every street
in Winston-Salem and that has caused a rapid in
crease in crime.
"With the invention of crack cocaine it was
like a umiib wcui off. From there ii*s continuous
ly gotten worse and worse." he said. "Instead of
being a thing to do drugs became a business.
Unless things have changed, I think it's the num
ber one business in this state and many others
At the time of his retirement, Pniii. was the
highest-decorated officer in Winston-Salem and
one of the highest in the state. He also received
honorable mention for United States police offi
cer of the year is 1991.
Not bad fot mmdcoiic who got into policc
work by accident.
"One day I was working as a salesman at a
plumbing and heating supply store and the next
day I was a police officer," Pruitt explained. "I
never planned to do it, but I'm glad I did. I don't
have any regrets about my career. I don't have
any regrets about what happened to me or what I
in fact, the incident made Pruitt a hero in Winston -
Salem. Local television stations aired stories about the
shooting and follow-up reports on his health, return to
work and retirement.
Pruitt v?id fwn television programs. Rescue 911 and
Top Cops, wanted to feature his story but it didn't pan out.
That's just as, well as far as Pniitt is concerned.
"Police shows are not realistic," he said. "There's noth
ing glamorous about getting shot or shooting somebody."
Since mutt was shot, tour fellow police officers have
been murdered in Winston-Salem, a city recently rated as
the 30th -rncs: violent is Arserics.
The violence is one of the things that drove Pruitt,
along with wife Melodee and sons Todd and Justin, to
move to the Holden Beach area two months after his retire
The 44-year-old now serves as a deacon and Sunday
school teacher at Brunswick Islands Baptist Church. Both
PimH K/jye^ aJ jj H!?h SCiiCvj
work with youth in the church.
Pniitt also visits other churches as a lay minister.
"After i got shot there were so many miracies that hap
pened, so many churches wanted me to come and speak,"
We'// Carry On
We kiss our families goodbye and roost of
us go out into a world that few of von will
ever see or know anything about Statistic!
show tnat over half of us will one day come
home to an empty bouse and a note saying,
"GuwSiyc, ! uu'i lake juiii jw anymore."
But wc carry on.
We know we have a job with one of the
highest divorce, suicide and mental illness
rates in the world.
But we carry oa.
You curse us when we stop you for speed
ing. You weren't there two hours ago when
wc covered the body of a three-year-old child,
killed by a speeding car.
But wm carry on.
We'll intervene in fights and take the beat
ing meant for you, knowing that you wouldn't
do the same for us and probably won't even
StSS Srff * uw.
We investigate the murders, tapes and rob
beries and have to watch the victims' families
weep in court wben a judge has to release the
T on a smal! technicality.
We see families wiped out in accidents.
Then we listen as the person who did it is
fined $100 for drank driving and given a lim
ited driving privilege so be can get back and
forth to work and church on Sundays.
SmS f ww CwTjr im.
We know that if you hit us, unprovoked,
you'll probably get a fine, in court for assault
We know that if we hit yon, unprovoked, we
coma lose our jobs and everytliing we own for
The uniform is not armor. It won't
lets, knives, bricks or sticks. We have gooe
burning buildings, burning cars and icy
to try to save lives. Some of u
We are part mediator, problem solver:
driver, weapon* expert,
unaeior. we are pan
and doctor; and soc
boxer and wrestler. Does your job require this
much and even somrrinw move? i doubt it
We know all this.
We're not expected to be the one w _
all are ? human beings. Sometimes, though,
we forget and act like them. We get angry, we
say or do something we shouldn't Please for
give us. But if you don't ?
Wr'U carry oa.
Editor's mote: "Wt'U Carry On" was written
by retired Wmston-Salem Police Sgt-DaUm
Fruiu, appruximaieiy five years before ae was
shot and nearty killed white working security
at a restaurant
To Dig The barth
BY BILL FAVER
This time of yew I am remind^! of the Korean
proverb which when translated means "To dig the
earth is the cleanest and proudest life." This tradi
tional line comes from a
preindustrial time when
agriculture was the way
of life and no doubt
makes references to the
pride in the simple and
good life of aimiiiei
I would like to think
this proverb might aiso
speak of a satisfaction
derived from a close re
lationship with the
Earth. For there was a
time in our country
when the daily routines
of life meant we were
aware of our depen
dence upon the earth in a
much more realistic way. Our very survival depend
ed upon our knowledge of the earth and its forct..
Walton Johnson, a camp director in Western North
,^1 fkti % \ l W
Caro'ina for many years, once said there were two
things that made our country great-our relationship
with God and our relationship with the Earth. In re
cent years, many people seem to have rediscovered
the satisfactions of "digging the earth." Probably for
many the environmental awareness of the 1970s
contributed to the emphasis on gardening and house
plants and the renewed awareness of the natural
world. Many want to get outdoors and enjoy their
surroundings. Some are feeling, as did their ances
ims, thai "To dig the eaiih is ihe cleanest and piuiiu
And no doubt they are right! Maybe more of us
should seek the satisfaction of growing our own
vegetables, or of watching plants develop from seed,
or patiently waiting for roots to sprout from a hard
wood cutting, or harvesting our own berries or
grapes. We could develop new interests or rediscov
er interests we once had. We could recognize once
iuuic uuw dependent we arc upon a good carih and
growing things. And where better to do that than in
We can grow vegetables, or harvest
our own berries and grapes.
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