FORT WORTH -- Montague County Deputy James Boyd felt uneasy as he stopped a 1991 black Cadillac Thursday morning in Bowie.The car, which had Colorado plates, had changed lanes improperly and took an unusually long time to pull over, leaving Boyd with a sense of trepidation."Before I even got out of the patrol car, I remember looking at the car and thinking something is just not right," Boyd said during an interview Tuesday at Texas Health Harris Hospital Fort Worth.He was by himself and the nearest deputy was at least 10 minutes away, but Boyd didn't feel like he could wait for backup to arrive.The driver of the car was Evan Spencer Ebel, who would later become the chief suspect in the fatal shooting of the Colorado prisons chief earlier last week.As he walked up to the passenger side window, Boyd never got a look at him."All I saw was gun," Boyd, 27, said. "... I remember seeing the gun shoot off a number amount of times and I could see the cartridges flying. At which point I blacked out."Boyd fell to the ground and Ebel sped away, heading south on U.S. 287. Boyd slowly regained consciousness, but he said he wasn't sure if he was standing or on the ground.Ebel, using a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun, shot Boyd twice in the chest and one bullet grazed the left side of his head.Boyd said he didn't realize he was injured until he felt a trickle of blood running down his forehead.Scrambling for his microphone, he called dispatchers, telling them an officer was down, the type of the vehicle as well as the direction it was headed.Other law enforcement officials have credited Boyd with helping them track down Ebel as he raced toward Wise County, at times reaching speeds of 100 mph. Ebel crashed into a rock hauler in Decatur and a gunbattle ensued.Ebel died at a Fort Worth hospital later Thursday.'I just got lucky'"Somebody needed to get him off the street," Boyd said. "I didn't know who he was or where he was headed to."An off-duty Johnson County Sheriff's Department detective, who was driving to Wichita Falls with his mother along U.S. 287, saw Boyd's flashing lights and stopped to help. Boyd was soon transported to the Fort Worth hospital.Boyd, who became a sheriff's deputy after graduating from Bowie High School, doesn't regret stopping Ebel. He believes his 6-foot-2 frame helped save his life and prevent another officer from being killed."If I wouldn't have done it, there was an officer 5 to 10 miles up from me who would have probably stopped him," Boyd said. "He was actually a few inches shorter than me. He most likely would have died. I just got lucky that I was the perfect height, weight. That's all it boiled down to was luck."After being hospitalized Boyd would learn that Ebel was a suspect in the fatal shooting of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Clements was shot March 19 as he answered the front door of his Monument, Colo., home.Ebel is also a suspect in the shooting of a Denver pizza deliveryman.Boyd, who was expected to be released from the hospital Tuesday, will now go to a Fort Worth rehabilitation facility to recover from a severe concussion."I could be there five days to 50 days," Boyd said. "That's not up to me."But he's eager to return to his job and hopes to participate in some "ride alongs" as soon as doctors clear him.'All he's ever wanted to do'Boyd's parents, Barbara and Hal Boyd, were home in Montague County when their son was shot.After they were called by a deputy, they hopped in their Mustang and began racing along rural dirt roads. When they learned he was already on a helicopter ambulance, they turned toward Fort Worth."We were told he was shot in the chest and one shot had nicked his ear so we didn't realize how serious it was until we got to the hospital," Barbara Boyd said.While she worried about her son's safety, she is also looking forward to the day he goes back to work.His father, Hal Boyd, a former Lewisville firefighter and arson investigator, currently works as a Montague County reserve deputy."This is all he's ever wanted to do since he was a little boy," Barbara Boyd said. "He's been around it all of his life. I'm just glad he can serve another 20 or 30 years."Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham said the shooting shows how vulnerable deputies are in rural counties where backup may be miles away.Even though Montague County only has about 20,000 residents, out-of-state drivers are commonplace along U.S. 287 that runs from Texas to Montana.We only had two deputies on duty at that time so we can be spread pretty thin, Cunningham said.Besides his height, Boyd credits his bullet-proof vest with saving his life.If theres one thing I want to come out of this is wear a vest, Boyd said. I want to get that message out there.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698; Twitter: @fwhanna