Baltimore officer shot in line of duty becomes champion for mental health awareness

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore police officer injured in the line of duty in 2019 has become an advocate for those struggling with emotional trauma.

Lt. Bill Shiflett is an open book when it comes to talking about what happened to him for one major reason: so that other officers dealing with trauma can get the help they need.

“It’ll never be behind me,” Lt. Shiflett said. “I have the physical reminders daily.”

It was July 15, 2019, when Shiflett responded to an active shooter inside a North Baltimore methadone clinic. Knowing full well the dangers he faced, Shiflett intervened.

“I had somebody tell me that somebody was inside the building shooting people,” Shiflett said. “I knew immediately what I was confronted with.”

The gunman shot Shiflett in the abdomen, an injury he vividly recalls to this day.

“I knew I had been shot because I felt it,” Shiflett recalled. “It felt like a punch in the stomach. Honestly, it felt like a nonstop punch in the stomach.”

Fortunately, the lieutenant survived the shooting and eventually returned to work full-time. But while his physical wounds were healing, he realized the emotional ones were not.

“The sleepless night start,” he said. “The cold sweats start. Irritability, that kind of stuff starts.”

He reached out to a combat psychologist provided by the Baltimore Police Department’s Health and Wellness Unit.

“Talking to a combat psychologist is a big thing,” Shiflett said. “There’s a psychologist that knows what  you’re dealing with.”

Now he encourages fellow officers to seek help if they need it and he is featured in a new BPD video that shares his story and struggles.

“Don’t be too proud to step back and say, ‘I need a little help,'” he said. “Call me, I’ll be glad to talk to you. I’d be glad to talk to you and I’ll pull you into the people who helped me and nobody needs to know about it.”

To this day, Shiflett carries a tattoo that serves as a reminder of everything he’s been through.

“You have to take it one step at a time,” he said. “There really is no, ‘Oh, I’m better now.’ It’s not like that. It’s a slow process.”

Shiflett, who returned to the force full-time, was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

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