FORT WORTH — A Fort Worth police officer who was shot three times during a gunfight with a wanted felon who ambushed him at a Haltom City auto yard in January will receive a Star of Texas award next week.Gov. Rick Perry will present the honor to Officer John Bell in a ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday in Austin.The award, created by the Texas Legislature, honors peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical first-responders who are killed or seriously injured in the line of duty on or after Sept. 1, 2003.Police Chief Jeff Halstead said he will attend the ceremony at Bell’s invitation and considers it a highlight of his career.When Bell was shot on Jan. 29, Halstead was in Washington at a meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association to discuss gun control. “I still remember getting that call and the feeling I had when I realized a fellow police officer, one of ‘ours’ and a personal friend, was shot multiple times by a dangerous, fleeing criminal,” Halstead said. “It was such a helpless feeling being 1,000 miles away but I firmly believe our prayers had an impact.“It is great to see Johnny today, and his attitude is excellent. He is looking forward to getting back to work and possibly training officers at the academy. He has never lost his sense of humor, and he remains very humbled by all of this attention.”Bell and his partner had stopped by the 2nd Opinion Auto Center on Carson Street to chat with the owner when Haltom City police arrived, searching for a man who had fled from police and was believed to have a pound of methamphetamine in his possession.The man was nowhere to be seen, and the Haltom City officers left.But suspecting that the man might have stashed drugs in the auto yard, Bell, his partner and the owner began looking around the lot. The owner opened the door of a pickup. Cody Loron was hiding inside.Loron’s first shot hit Bell in the right eye, but Bell drew his gun and returned fire.“It just took a matter of seconds,” Bell told the Star-Telegram later. “I fired seven. He fired eight.”Before it was over, Bell was hit twice more. One shot severed his left middle finger, and the other struck his right groin, lodging in his hip socket.Loron, 32, a convicted bank robber, was pronounced dead a short time later at a Fort Worth hospital.Bell was hospitalized for more than a week.“If you’re involved in something like that, you can’t run,“ Bell told the Star-Telegram just before being discharged from the hospital on Feb. 7. “You’ve got to go forward. You have to stand your ground, and you’ve got to win the fight because if you don’t, then you are in trouble.”Bell has not returned to work and continues to get physical therapy for his injuries, according to Cpl. Tracey Knight, a police spokeswoman.Halstead said he has also been notified that Bell is one of four officers from around the world who are finalists for the Target Police Officer of the Year award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.Halstead said Target is sending Bell and his wife on an all-expenses-paid trip to Philadelphia next month for the ceremony where the winner will be announced. Halstead said he also plans to attend that conference.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd