When her boyfriend hit her in the face, she called the police. When he hit her on the head with a chair, she called back. The officers were arriving, and despite her obvious injuries - a cut lip, a swollen eye - they turned and left when her boyfriend , who was a prison warden on Rikers Island, would show his own badge.
He hit her even more, until Katrina Cooke Brownlee , 22 years old and pregnant, finally leaves theher home in Medford on Long Island with her two young children, hiding in a nearby hotel. It was January 1993. Several days passed before she realized she needed more clothes for her daughters, and she returned home. Her boyfriend, Alex Irvin, was waiting - with a gun.
"It's the day you die, bitch ", a- he said, and he veered - right on his stomach. He pulled over, and over, and over and over. He emptied the five-round cylinder from the revolver, then reloaded and emptied it again. Image
Three extraordinary results followed this bloody day.
Un: Katrina has vecu. Medics removed all the bullets they could without causing more damage, leaving six inside her. She left the hospital months later in a wheelchair. Her unborn child did not survive.
Two: She has learned to walk again. And to run. She left side injured when it rained - remaining bullets.
Three: Mrs. Brownlee, who had never been abandoned and ignored by men with badges , although she was living proof of the beatings and violence one of them had inflicted, approached 'an institution she deeply distrusted, and entered.
"The police department let me down," Ms. Brownlee said, now 51, in a recent interview. "I wanted to be a good cop.
In 2001, she wasentry to the police academy. What followed was a 20-year career of promotions in busy and dangerous police areas, from the streets of Brooklyn to undercover work in narcotics and prostitution bites. She found herself on the elite executive protection team, as the New York mayor's bodyguard.
Everyone time, through all of these assignments, Ms. Brownlee did her best to keep her shooting a secret. She feared what her fellow officers or bosses would do with her traumatic injuries and her motivations for joining their ranks.
"People judge ", a Ms. Brownlee said. “Maybe you are crazy. L and I'll strip you of your gun. Maybe you are a headache. '”
So she hid her scars under her police uniform, first, then under his disguises for the traundercover vail, and finally, with the business suit of the mayor's security detachment. "I wanted to tell people, so many times," she said, but she kept her story close, buried like those leftover bullets.
She retired in July as a freshman detective. It wasn't until she decided to put those uniforms away for good that her story finally broke.
Left for dead Image
"The police let me down, "Ms. Brownlee said. " I wanted to be a good cop. " Credit ... Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for Hfrance.fr
The young life of Katrina Brownlee had already been a seriesbad relationship when she met Alex Irvin in the late 1980s. She had a daughter when she was only 14 with another teenager. She met Mr. Irvin five years later, and he and Mrs. Brownlee had a baby girl together in 1990.
They lived together in the empty house of his mother in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn before moving to a house in Medford on Long Island in 1991. She remembers him as a loving partner at first. That has changed.
"Five years of rape, torture, locking me in closets " she said this summer , in a series of interviews after leaving the police. "Where was I going to go? When you are mistreated and beaten, it is normal. She had no family to turn to in New York, and no other options.
In July 1992, Ms. Brownlee was pregnant again. "He said: " JI will not have this baby " she said. "He slapped me.
Then she ran away, only returning for a bag of children's clothes, carrying some 'first her 3 year old child asleep in a nearby village. room. He appeared behind her, and when she turned to face him, he fired. She will learn months later what happened while she was dying.
A cousin of Mr. Irvin has arrived, without announcing himself, and entered a bloodshed scene. "The house looked like the " Texas Chainsaw Massacre ", a prosecutor later said. The cousin picked her up, took her in her car and drove her to Patchogue hospital, leaving her in a wheelchair in the front, where staff members took her. found and rushed her inside.
Later that day, the policearrived at Mr. Irvin's home. There was blood everywhere - no badge was going to make that go away. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder. The attorney for the case, Keri Herzog, wa is a young deputy district attorney from Suffolk County. She went to the hospital to check on the victim's condition.
"She was covered in tubes," Ms. Herzog. “We weren't sure she was going to make it. She brought in the grand jury foreman who was in session at the hospital, along with a detective and a stenographer, to make a formal bedside statement in case she didn't survive.
Ms. Brownlee has no recollection of this questioning. Her earliest memory goes back 33 days after the shooting, when she woke up from a coma. She asked her doctor a question, dreading the answer.
"He said: 'The bebe didn 't survive, ”she said. "It was a boy. He lived two hours.
Her life as she had known it seemed over. "I was paralyzed from waist to toe," she said. A series of surgeries followed: "Gallbladder, colon and vaginal repair, bladder surgeries," she said. "Partial hysterectomy. Hip. "
Released from the hospital in a wheelchair, she went to the only place she knew: the house of the Mr Irvin's mother, who was still empty. She was assigned a physiotherapist who swore to get her out of the wheelchair. "If you give me a chance and give me everything you got, you're going to walk again ", he told her.
Preparation for the trial was underway. Then Mr. Irvin called her from prison.
"This is what you are going to say," he told her. "You shot yourself 10 times. " "
As ridiculous as it sounds, Mrs. Brownlee agreed. She was worried Mr. Irvin was be released at any time. "I have no one ", she remembers thinking. "He will be released from prison.
She felt helpless on every level. " The doctor told me I will never walk again and I stayed in that mentality "she said." You are in a chair rolling, you're paralyzed, "she remembers thinking. " This is how it's going to be. "
" But ", she added, " it was not God's plan for me. "She worked intensely with the physiotherapist. In about 60 days, he and Ms. Brownlee had sufficiently strengthened his legs and legs. hips so she can get up from her chair and lean on a walker.
Little timmediately thereafter, the walker was replaced by a cane. Then she put the cane aside.
Swimming at McDonald 's
It was late 1993, and Mr. Irvin's trial was approaching. Ms Herzog, the prosecutor, contacted Ms Brownlee to prepare the case. Ms. Brownlee had been helpful in the hospital, but that had changed. She declined to talk about the shooting.
Additionally, Ms. Brownlee sent a letter to the judge, claiming that the shooting was an accident she had itself provoked. Mrs. Herzog was incredulous. "He was a guy who empties his gun, reloads it and empties it again " she said.
Ms. Herzog called her back and asked to meet her. Mrs Brownlee refused.
"She said: 'I ' m not going in, I will disappear and you will never find me. ' "Mrs. Herzog recalled. "I could feel my blood pressure rising and I don't know where the voice was coming from, but I actually gave a bellow and said, " Katrina, I'm going to hunt you down like a dog ! "It wasn 't my proudest moment. It was loud enough that colleagues in the hallway rushed into my office.
Ms. . Brownlee didn't move. But when Mr. Irvin's mother threw her o In the house where she was recovering, her perspective began to change.
She moved into a homeless shelter. " I would go to a McDonald 's and bathe "she said." Me and the kids. "
Difficulties brought her resolve back." Once I become homeless, what do I have to lose? "She said. "Go ahead and kill me. What do I care?
In April 1994, the date of the trialhas arrived. Jury selection began and Ms Herzog, the prosecutor, was confident that she could secure a conviction even without Ms Brownlee's cooperation. The injuries, as medical records show, would speak for themselves.
But then, as the trial was about to begin, the door to the courtroom Audience opened and Mrs. Brownlee entered. She didn't speak, but her measured, recently returned stride was a testament in itself.
"No one was more surprised than I was Ms. Herzog said.
M r. Irvin saw her too. Before opening statements began, he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. During his time in prison, he was denied parole at least twice, with commissioners asking him how he could have reloaded his pistol and continued firing. " What isi went through your head? Asked.
'I must be a cop ' Image Ms. Brownlee hid her injuries while at police academy. She later worked undercover and joined Mayor Bill de Blasio's security service. Credit ... Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for Hfrance.fr
The ordeal behind it, it was time to start over. She continued to recover, then a surprise arrived in the mail. Years earlier, while still with Mr. Irvin and impressed with her career, she had taken the written exam to become a traffic cop in New York. Where did she have it?Left until in 1997, she received a letter from the city inviting her to join the agency, which has since become part of the Police Department.
She started out writing parking tickets, but soon realized that she wanted more. "I was like, " I need to be a cop " she said. This would require a more in-depth application process and a physical exam.
A question on a form asked if she had ever had surgery. "Gunshot wound," she wrote. She became frightened as the day for her physical exam approached. A long scar ran the length of her stomach, with smaller ones surrounding it. What if the doctor questioned her fitness for duty when seeing her injuries?
She showed up for her police medical examination, checked herself out. 'is undressedand lined up with a dozen other women.
"I was the last one," she recalls. “He's going down the line. I know I will be disqualified. But then a woman stopped the doctor to ask one question, then another. "Enough time passed and he said, 'Everyone get dressed and go.' I was the first to walk out of that damn door. "
She graduated from the police academy and was appointed an officer in 2001. Two years later she was transferred to the
Elle created his own persona, a disguise that would act like armor in aa world where women, broken and desperate, resort to sex for drugs. "I went there as a gay woman," she said, and a working woman showing up at drug store wearing a borrowed FedEx uniform.
His dealers have noticed the suspicious timing between his visits and their own arrests. “As soon as you left, the cops came,” they stressed. "I was like: " They got me too. That's why you haven't seen me. '”
His bosses have praised his work. "Brownlee is innovative when given a difficult job like infiltrating drug traffickers," read one performance review. "She is enthusiastic about shopping and doing business, even when it means confronting very dangerous individuals.
The work consumed her. In fact, in 2003, when Mr. Irvin was released from prison after serving 10 years for his attempted murder, she hasn't really thought about it. That part of his life was over. He has since moved out of state and could not be contacted for comment on this story.
After a few years she was again transferred, to the vice team. His secret appearance has also changed. "Now I'm sexy, and with long hair," she said. Impersonating a prostitute on Sumpin Boulevard, a notorious stretch in Queens where runaway teenage girls were working alongside adult women, approaching the men's cars and getting inside for $ 50 or $ 100, opened her eyes.
"There are a lot of sick people there," she said. A boss gave her advicehe: "When you go out and you are not afraid," he told her, "you are doing something wrong.
She saw something familiar in these young women working on the streets. Many were victims as she had been. But she couldn't reveal herself to them - to do so would blow up her blanket. She felt frustrated.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent, they are all victims," she said. "Just talking to them, their stories - it's like a brotherhood there. " She met a young woman who was carrying a weird talisman in her purse. "A bag of dead cockroaches," recalls Ms. Brownlee. "You go out on these streets and you are so traumatized that you make friends with dead cockroaches. This is crazy. "
The job was extremely stressful. After more than five years of undercoverwas transferred to a quieter post in a community affairs office at police headquarters, and, now a policeman in sight, she saw an opportunity.
In 2012, she founded a program with the office called A Rose Is Still a Rose, which was eventually renamed and designated a nonprofit, Young Ladies of Our Future. The organization "aims to inspire, educate, mentor and empower young women at risk ", according to its website . At the Brownsville and East New York offices in Brooklyn, young women gathered for weekly workshops - "from etiquette to bullying to gun violence to nutrition," she said. .
Finally, in 2013, Ms. Brownlee was selected to become a member of the ex security teamshield surrounding the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, and his family.
"You haven't seen people like me on the mayor's detail "she said. "It was mostly a Caucasian male detail. It was huge.
She was the advance officer of the mayor. "I'm the person who goes ahead and makes sure everything's secure, and lets him in.
two had a connection, she said. "He follows me wherever I go. If I fall into a ditch, he goes into a ditch. We loved each other. I traveled all over the world with this man. for eight years. "
This year, Mr. de Blasio's final year as mayor, was Ms. Brownlee's 20th year with the department, an important step that many agents mark by handing in their retirement papers. Then 50 years old, she knew she wasready for a change and decided it was time to go. She retired on June 30. That same day, she shared her secret.
She sat down with Mr. de Blasio during a final meeting in his office, and it just came out. "I said: " I was shot 10 times. " He looked at her in disbelief. She repeated herself and told him that she was writing a memoir. The manu is titled 'And Then Came the Blues'.
"He said,' You are amazing. You have never shown any signs. '"
She told the mayor:" You are not supposed to. "