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From Catcher to Police Officer, Lim a Legend Under the Gun

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Stacy Lim, Northridge softball player. One in an occasional series

July 13, 1996|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bullet, a hollow-tipped magnum load, fragmented and nicked nearly every organ in her torso: her stomach, her intestines, her liver. It shattered her spleen, cracked a rib and put a hole in the base of her heart before exiting out her back.

"The only thing it missed was my lung and kidney," she said.

After two hours of surgery at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Lim was on life support. While in intensive care, she went flatline again.

The doctors told her family she was losing too much blood and that they would have to get her back into surgery.

"They cracked my chest open a second time. My heart seizes and they do a 45-minute heart massage to bring my heart back," she said.

Doctors also found a severed artery that runs along a rib in her back and worked to repair it. But despite their efforts, their outlook for Lim's recovery was bleak.

"They told my family, 'She's got about an hour and half to two hours left to live. The only thing keeping her alive is machines, so do what you need to do to prepare yourselves,' " she said.

A nurse asked Lim's younger brother to sign donor cards and authorize the removal of her undamaged organs once she died. The police department already had written her obituary. It seemed everyone had Lim counted out, except for those who perhaps know her best.

"It didn't matter how many times they shot her, I knew she wasn't going to die," said Slaten, who was among her many former CSUN teammates in the waiting room.

*

About 90 minutes after doctors told family members to prepare themselves for Lim's death, there was a sign. Prompted by a doctor's orders, Lim squeezed his hand and moved her foot. Suddenly, there was hope.

"It was truly an emotional roller coaster for everyone that was there," Lim said. "For me, it was just physical."

Lim came out of her comatose state a week later. "I woke up thinking, man, I lost this fight because I was sore," she said.

But she soon learned she had shot and killed her assailant and that the others were all in custody. And unbeknown to her, her heroic effort was quickly becoming police folklore.

For Nancy Alford, who was an academy cadet during the summer that Lim was shot, Lim was a legend, an officer all should aspire to be.

"That's all we ever heard at the academy, 'Stacy Lim this and Stacy Lim that,' " said Alford, now an officer working in the Valley and a teammate of Lim's on a police softball team.

The legend grew when Lim passed on an offer from then--Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who brought Lim a case of her favorite beverage--Pepsi--to the hospital.

"He said, 'Stacy, if you want a pension, we'll give you 70% of your pay, tax-free, for the rest of your life,' " she said.

Some offer, but Lim never gave it a thought. "I've wanted to be a police officer since I was 12," she said.

So, Gates countered with an offer to place her in whatever division she pleased.

Southeast morning watch, she answered--an assignment that included one of the worst homicide rates in Los Angeles at the time.

"He looked at me and thought I was crazy," she said. "He said, 'You want to go where?' "

Lim had never been one to back down in the face of adversity, and she didn't want to let "one gangster" stop her now. She wanted to be where the action was, where she was needed most.

"It's busy and you learn fast [there]," she said. "You're safer if you work in busy divisions [because] your tactics stay sharp."

Lim, who has multiple large scars on her body--including one that wraps around her torso from navel to backbone, needed only eight months to recuperate and she was back out on the streets.

"I went through two major surgeries, died three times, only spent 15 days in the hospital and walked out on my own," she said.

Not surprisingly, a hero's welcome followed. Lim was awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest recognition afforded an officer of LAPD, and her shooting was deemed an "on-duty" incident by Chief Gates. Lim even received an American flag with a letter from then-First Lady Barbara Bush.

"I got all kinds of stuff," she said, sheepishly.

After working Southeast Division for 4 1/2 years, Lim was asked to teach cadets full time at the academy, which she has done for the past 18 months. Who better to teach tactics then Lim, who is one of a few cops, based on percentages, to fire a weapon and actually kill an assailant?

"I'm not better than anyone else, but in their eyes Stacy Lim was a good role model because of what I went through," she said.

*

Lim, whose father is Chinese, prefers to talk about herself--at least about the shooting--in the third person. It took her more than a year to accept the title of role model, but today she recognizes the importance of what she has to offer young cadets-in-training. And she draws constantly from past experiences.

"Nowadays, you don't want to get shot first," she said. "We tell them now, 'If someone is pointing a gun at you, the time to talk is gone.' If you're talking, you're not going to be able to shoot.

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