Updated: Aug 25
By Joe Johnson
Athens-Clarke County police Sgt. Paul Davidson has nine stitches that closed a gaping wound in the center of his forehead, he is sore throughout his body and is recovering from a severe concussion after being knocked unconscious for about two minutes.
Nevertheless, the 43-year-old veteran officer was in good spirits as he recovers from a near-fatal collision that occurred one week ago.
That is because the veteran officer is in the best possible recuperative environment – at home where he is surrounded by those who love him: his wife, Grace, and their six children.
They have a large, blended family, with Grace and Paul having five daughters and a son from previous marriages.
“I know someone was watching over me that night. My fellow officers also helped me and supported me through it all. This has been extremely hard on me and my family. For nearly 20 years I have been helping the people of Athens, and I am not used to being the injured person,” the officer said.
“That night” was last Sunday at about 11:40 p.m., as Davidson was preparing to end his shift by going to the west police precinct at the Georgia Square mall where he said he likes to "lay eyes on all of my shift officers, and make sure everyone has ten fingers and ten toes" before going home.
He nearly made it to the precinct, but when stopped for a traffic light at Atlanta Highway and Mitchell Bridge Road a high-speed police pursuit that began in Barrow County came roaring into the Athens intersection, where the pickup truck that Barrow deputies were chasing struck another vehicle, then flipped and landed on Davidson’s car.
“I can remember the truck suspended in the air just before it hit me. I saw the inside of the bed of the truck over my head. That image is burned in my mind,” the ACCPD supervisor said.
The next thing that Davidson could recall was Officer Brooke Minchew saying, “Hey sergeant, you were in an accident. You are stuck in the car but we are trying to get you out.”
Davidson said he remembered sounds of people banging on his car, with glass falling around the vehicle.
“I was told I was unconscious for at least 2 minutes,” Davidson said. “I was inside my body with no idea where I was or what had happened. I suppose I was still not fully conscious. I asked myself, ‘What’s going on? Why are my officers so worried? Are they OK?’”
Officer used crow bars, hammers and whatever tools they could use to try to open the patrol car’s crushed driver's side door, getting the officer out through the passenger was not an option because of the center console where a laptop computer was docked.
Eventually a fire-rescue crew arrived and used a hydraulic “jaws of life” tool to pry open the damaged door so that Davidson could be loaded into an ambulance some 20 minutes after his car was struck.
After doctors closed the wound on his head and another on his elbow, they ran tests that determined Davidson had suffered a moderate to severe concussion.
“At this point my concussion is slowly healing. It feels like a bruised brain,” the officer said. “The deeper my thoughts are it is like pushing onto a bruise. I have to back away from the deep thinking and the pain stops.
Davidson did not yet know if he will require therapy or how long he will be out of action.
“I think that will depend on how much I heal.” he said. “My forehead was split open, and I guess there will be a follow-up procedure to correct the scarring because the stitches are large. My left arm is getting a little better each day, but I'm just happy to be alive.”
How soon and well Davidson recovers from the concussion will be the deciding factor for when he can return to full police duties.
“You have to be on you’re A game on patrol, with so many dangers out there, he said. “I’ll heal and be back at some point.”
He added, “I am very lucky to be alive. I know someone was watching over me that night. My fellow officers also helped me and supported me through it all. This has been extremely hard on me and my family. For nearly 20 years I have been helping the people of Athens, and I am not used to being the injured person.”
In addition to support he has been receiving from his family, there are many others whose help and concern Davidson is appreciative of.
“I have received phone calls from Governor Kemp, Mayor Girtz, and all of my command staff,” he said. “I appreciate the officers, firefighters, EMS, and medical staff who helped me that night. My family and I have had people reach out with kind words, and some really nice gestures such as delivering dinner, sending cards, and flowers.
“All of this is so foreign to me because I am a helper, not a victim. I love my friends and family, and hate to scare them with a near-death incident. I have served Athens for many years shoulder to shoulder with the best officers there are. I know the current political climate has been anti-police, but the officers who serve Athens are out there every day and night to keep everyone safe. I almost lost my life wearing the Athens-Clarke County police uniform. I have and will put my life on the line for innocent people so they may have a good life also. I also want to be a good daddy and husband so my family can be happy, healthy and safe as long as I'm here.”