Columbia police Officer Curtis Brown had a busy first couple of days back at work.
He wasn’t occupied patrolling his new beat in south Columbia on Thursday;. his day was packed with nearly back-to-back media interviews.
“I’d rather receive the attention for winning the Powerball,” he joked.
Brown’s first full day back in the field on Wednesday came after 10 months of rehabilitation for injuries from a gunshot wound he received to his upper right arm while pursuing the man who killed fellow Officer Molly Bowden on Jan. 10. Bowden was the first Columbia police officer killed in the line of duty.
Brown, 37, said he is not 100 percent better yet, but he is getting his strength back and progressing daily.
Since his injury, Brown has done administrative work for the department and prepared for his return. That meant extensive physical therapy — including weight training — to recover from nerve damage.
Throughout his therapy, he said he looked forward to getting out of the office and into his normal routine.
“There is a certain amount of freedom out there,” he said.
Brown, who was upbeat and had a ready smile Thursday, said he used the first few days back to reacquaint himself with police equipment and got comfortable with his new assigned area, beats 10 and 15 in south Columbia.
But he said he can’t get over the tragic events in January.
“It is on the back of my mind every day,” he said.
On Jan. 11, Brown was pursuing Richard T. Evans, who was suspected in Bowden’s shooting, on foot near Evans’ parents’ house when Evans turned the gun on Brown. Evans then shot himself in the head.
“There is a constant reminder on my right arm,” he said, referring to the large scar on his right bicep where the bullet ripped through his upper arm. “I see it every day when I wake up.”
But, Brown said, the risk of injury is part of being a police officer.
“It’s still police work — we put ourselves in harm’s way,” Brown said.
He said his injury wouldn’t change the way he does his job.
“You can be cautious but you can’t change the nature of the job,” Brown said.
Columbia police Capt. Mike Martin said Brown’s return means a lot to the force.
“(His return) sends a significant message of his personal strength,” Martin said. “It’s been a long, grueling process healing and rehabbing.”
Others at the department said they were happy to see Brown back.
“He always has a smile on his face no matter what the situation is,” station master Dave Waldrup said. “He knew he was coming back, whether others believed it or not.”