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 coming, and despite her obvious injuries - a cut lip, one eye swollen - they would turn around and go when her little onefriend, who was a prison guard on Rikers Island, would show her own badge.
He hit her more, until Katrina Cooke Brownlee, 22 and pregnant, eventually leaves their 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 cylinder with five shots from the revolver, then reloaded it and emptied it again. Image
Three extraordinary results followed this bloody day.
Un: Katrina has lived. Medics pulled out 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 which she deeply distrusted, and entered.
" The police department let me down, "Ms. Brownlee, now 51, said in a recent interview. " I wanted to be a good cop. "
In 2001, she entered police academy. What followed was a 20-year career of promotions in busy and dangerous police areas on the streets of Brooklyn undercover narcotics work and prostitution bites. She found herself on the elite executive protection team, as the New York mayor's bodyguard.
All the 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 injuries. traumatic and his motivations for joining their ranks.
"People judge " Ms. Brownlee said. "Maybe you are crazy. L and Istrip off your gun. Maybe you are a headache. '”
So she hid her scars under her police uniform, first, then under his disguises for the undercover work, 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 department left me fall ”, aMs. Brownlee said. "I wanted to be a good cop. Credit ... Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for Hfrance.fr
Katrina Brownlee's young life had already been a series bad 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 thist been 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, " I 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 " said Plus later an attorney. 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, police arrived 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.it did not 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 baby didn ' t survive," he said. she declared. "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. He was assigned a physiotherapist who swore to the sget out of the wheelchair. "If you give me a chance and give me everything you have, you will walk again ", he told her.
The preparation for the trial was in progress . Then Mr. Irvin called her from jail.
"That's what you're going to say," he told her. " You shot yourself 10 times. "
As ridiculous as it sounds, Ms. Brownlee agreed. She was concerned that Mr. Irvin would be released at any time. "I 've got 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 with that mentality," she said. “You're in a wheelchair, you're paralyzed,” she recalls thinking. "This is how it's going to be.
"But ", she saide added, "it was not God's plan for me. " She worked intensely with the physiotherapist. In about 60 days, he and Ms. Brownlee had strengthened her legs and hips enough that she could get up from her chair and lean on a walker.
Shortly after, 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. "It was aguy emptying his gun, reloading it and emptying it again "she said.
Ms. Herzog called her back and called her back. asked to meet her. Mrs Brownlee refused.
"She said: " I am not going in, I will disappear and you will not find me never " Mrs. Herzog called back. "I could feel my blood pressure rising and not sure where the voice was coming from, but I actually bellowed 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 hasn't budged. But when Mr. Irvin 's mother threw her o In the house where she was recovering, her perspective started to change.
She moved to a homeless shelter. "I would go to a McDonald 's and swim ", she said. “Me and the kids.
Difficulties have restored her resolve. "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 trial date arrived. Jury selection began and Ms Herzog, the prosecutor, was convinced that she could get 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 opened and Mrs. Brownlee came in. She didn't speak, but her stride measured , recently returned, was a testament in itself.
"No one was more surprised than me," Ms. Herzog said.
Mr. Irvin saw it 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 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 epreuve behind her, 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. She had forgotten it 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 got scared asthe day of his physical examination was approaching. 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. stripped naked and 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 persona, a disguise that would act like armor in a 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 task likee infiltrate drug traffickers, ”reads 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 didn't really think 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 Sutphin Boulevard, a notoi sectionre in Queens where runaway teenage girls worked alongside adult women, approaching men's cars and riding inside for $ 50 or $ 100, opened her eyes.
"There are a lot of sick people out there," she said. A boss gave him a piece of advice: "When you go out and you 're 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 talk to them, their stories - it's like a brotherhood there. " She met a young woman who was carrying in her purse un weird talisman. "A bag of dead cockroaches," Ms. Brownlee recalled. "You go out on these streets and you are so traumatized that you make friends with dead cockroaches. It's crazy. "
The job was extremely stressful. After more than five years of undercover, she was transferred to a quieter post in a community affairs office at police headquarters, and, now a police officer 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 . In Brownsvil officesThe and East New York to 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 executive security team 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 mayor's advance officer. " I am the go-to person. 'forward and make sure everything is secure, and put it in. "
The two were related, she said." He follows me wherever I go. If I fall into a ditch, he goes into a ditch. We loved each other. I have traveled all over the world with this mane for eight years. "
This year, Mr. de Blasio's final year as mayor, was Ms. Brownlee's 20th year with the department , a milestone many officers mark by handing in their retirement papers. Then at 50, she knew she was ready for a change and decided it was time to go. She retired. June 30. On the same day, she shared her secret.
She sat down with Mr. de Blasio at a final meeting in her desk, and it just came out. "I said: " I was shot 10 times. " He looked at her in disbelief. She repeated herself and told him she was writing a memoir. The manu is titled "And Then Came the Blues.
"He said," You are amazing. You never have showed signs. '"
She said to the mayor:" You are not supposed toto do. "