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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

CdA police chief plans visit to injured officer in Seattle

Coeur d’Alene police Chief Wendy Carpenter plans to travel to Seattle this weekend to spend time with an officer who was shot and severely wounded in a gunbattle Tuesday morning.

Officer Michael Kralicek, 35, was listed in serious condition Thursday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He was shot just after midnight Tuesday when a routine questioning turned into a four-way gunfight in a Hayden garage that left the homeowner dead.

Kralicek was shot in the face from about 6 feet away with a .357 Magnum. He has undergone a tracheotomy and surgery to repair his carotid artery at Harborview and has been unconscious since Tuesday morning. But Kootenai County sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said testing shows the officer has good brain activity, the Associated Press reported.

Carpenter, at a press conference Tuesday, was somber and appeared shocked. “The unexpected happens all the time in this profession,” she said. “This is a shock. This is something we don’t ever want to face.”

She has been with the department since 1977, Carpenter said, and can’t remember another instance of a Coeur d’Alene officer being shot in those three decades. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had a fatal shooting,” she said.

But other departments in Idaho have.

In the past 120 years, 34 police officers have been shot and killed in Idaho while on duty, according to the Idaho Peace Officers Memorial Web site.

Idaho State Police trooper Linda Huff was the only officer shot and killed in Kootenai County. She died in 1998 at age 33 after being ambushed outside the ISP’s district headquarters in Coeur d’Alene.

William F. Degan, of the U.S. Marshall’s Office, was shot and killed in 1992 during the Ruby Ridge standoff in Naples, Idaho. Degan was from Boston and on special assignment at the time of his death.

Fellow law enforcement officials and local residents have rallied to help Kralicek. His wife and two daughters, flown to Seattle on a local businessman’s private jet, have kept vigil in the Seattle hospital since Tuesday morning. Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has paid a visit and has assigned Seattle officers to stand guard round-the-clock.

Kralicek was taken first to Kootenai Medical Center but quickly flown to Harborview because of the location and the severity of his wounds.

“With any injuries to the neck and face, there’s a lot of vital structure in a very small area,” said Dr. Jerry Jurkovich, chief of trauma services at Harborview. “It’s both cosmetic and functional. Even minor injuries to the face can have a devastating long-term effect. … In the case of a gunshot wound to the area, even though it’s a small missile, it can injure a lot of things.”

Jurkovich did not treat Kralicek and could not talk specifically about the case because of patient privacy rules.

He did say that realigning jaw and other facial bones is complex and delicate, requiring a team of special surgeons.

“Tiny shifts of a millimeter can make a huge difference,” he said.

Harborview is the only Level I trauma center in Washington state. That means its staff can handle any difficult or complicated emergency 24 hours a day, including burns and severe pelvic fractures, Jurkovich said.

In 2003, roughly one-third of Harborview’s 12,600 adult injury patients came from outside King County. That year, 46 trauma patients were transferred to Harborview from Spokane County.

In Spokane, Sacred Heart Medical Center and Deaconess Medical Center are Level II trauma centers. The two hospitals share the designation and trade off weeks between them. On Tuesday morning, when Kralicek was shot, Sacred Heart was taking its turn as trauma center.

People familiar with the region’s emergency medical services said the decision to send Kralicek to Harborview would have been made by a doctor at KMC.

The trauma designation system is meant to cluster a high level of services at specified hospitals, so that doctors and nurses at those hospitals can keep their skills high.

The hospitals receive trauma designations from the Washington state Office of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Services in a competitive process based on site visits and written applications. Idaho has no formal trauma designation system, but some Idaho hospitals are designated as part of Washington’s trauma system.

Sgt. Christie Wood, information officer for the Coeur d’Alene police, said law enforcement agencies and others have been offering help and donating to a fund set up to help Kralicek’s family handle travel and other unexpected expenses.

The department sent Capt. Steve Childers and Lt. Randy Miller to Seattle with Kralicek just to be with him – if he regained consciousness – and his family, Wood said.

“This has been pretty devastating,” she said.