Location: Minidoka, Idaho
Date: June 15, 1991
On the night of June 15, 1991, thirty-eight year old Idaho State Trooper Corporal Steven Hobbs was on routine patrol near Sweetzer Pass, a remote stretch of highway near the Utah border, when he spotted a speeding car. Hobbs flashed his lights and the car pulled onto the shoulder and stopped. Hobbs approached the car on foot and barely got the words "Good evening" out of his mouth, when the driver, twenty-three year old Shawn Kerrigan, fired at him four times with a nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistol. The one bullet not deflected by Hobbs' bulletproof vest entered his left shoulder, exited his body, and re-entered his right arm.
Around 9:15 pm, police dispatcher Dorinda Silver heard loud static over her radio. She suspected it might be an officer trying to radio from Sweetzer Pass, an area known to police for poor or no radio transmission. Then a voice crackled over her radio. "I need help, 475, I need help." Hobbs' I.D. number was 475. Then Dorinda was sure she heard the word shot. She couldn't contact Hobbs, so she dispatched an ambulance to the general location. She also notified the nearest officer, who was seventy miles away.
Meanwhile, Hobbs tried to pursue Kerrigan. But after one mile, slipping in and out of consciousness, he lost control of his car and came to a stop on the highway's sagebrush-filled median. His engine was still running, and within minutes the dry brush beneath his car caught fire.
Floyd Veibell and his family were on their way home in two cars from a family reunion when they saw Hobbs' patrol car engulfed in smoke. Floyd and his family stopped to see if they could help. With his family fearful that the burning car would explode, Floyd ran over to see if someone was inside it. He opened the door and found Hobbs slumped over the wheel.
The Veibells laid Hobbs on the ground and found the bullet holes in his arm and shoulder. Floyd's daughter-in-law, Sherri, noticed Hobbs' breathing was shallow. A moment later it stopped. Although Sherri wasn't trained in rescue breathing, she gave it a try. Three times she performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and each time Hobbs began to breathe, then stopped. Sherri and Floyd worried that they were going to sit there and watch the man die.
"You feel so absolutely responsible," recalls Floyd. "You almost want to say, you son of a gun, you better not die on me." Floyd felt vast relief when he spotted the two men running toward them carrying a black medical bag.
Off-duty EMT John Cook and his brother, EMT trainee Bill Dennison, happened to be on their way home from vacation when they spotted the fiery wreckage. John made an assessment of Hobbs and knew he had to get him to a hospital quickly. Hobbs was in deep shock and combative, which is the body's response to oxygen deprivation of the brain. Since they couldn't radio for help, John instructed one of the Veibells to flag down an approaching mobile home. The driver, Gerald Jensen, agreed to transport Hobbs, and rescuers Floyd, John, and Bill, to Snowville, ten miles away. The men worked to keep Hobbs alive until he could be airlifted to McKay-Dee Hospital.
Meanwhile, Hobbs' wife, Janice, a Minidoka County dispatcher who was on duty that night, heard about the incident over the radio, and was rushed to the hospital by a police officer.
Hobbs arrived at McKay-Dee, two hours after he'd been shot. Following successful surgery to repair the severed artery and nerves in his arm, Hobbs underwent physical therapy, which he still continues.
Today, Hobbs has limited use of his hand, and as a result of the oxygen deprivation to his brain, has partial short-term memory loss, and a permanent 50 percent loss of vision. Unable to do many things he was previously able to do, including working on patrol, Hobbs has had to face a huge adjustment, but he's thankful to be alive. He and Janice are grateful to all the people who stopped that night to help.
"Steve means everything to me," says Janice. "I will never be able to repay the people who took the time to rescue him. I never there were so many people who cared."
Floyd Veibell's best reward was seeing Steve play with his seven children at a party thrown for his rescuers. Floyd was reminded of when he was a kid and happened to see the accident in which his own father died. "So I was raised without a father," says Floyd, "and these kids have theirs. To me, that's all that counts."
Kerrigan was arrested the following day, and was subsequently convicted of the shooting (along with stealing the car he had been driving from Wisconsin) and sentenced to 40 years in prison.