Fort Worth

Wounded Santa Fe officer nicknamed 'Tarrant County' on the mend. Support on the way

Law enforcement officers respond to Santa Fe High School after an active shooter was reported on campus in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18.
Law enforcement officers respond to Santa Fe High School after an active shooter was reported on campus in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18. Houston Chronicle file

The Santa Fe school resource officer severely wounded while confronting a teenage shooter accused of slaying 10 people last month is improving, a hospital official said.

John Barnes, 49, is recovering in the intensive care unit at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and his condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, a hospital spokesman reported.

Barnes was shot in the arm during a confrontation with a mass shooter at Santa Fe High School on May 28 and lost a lot of blood before receiving hospital treatment, authorities said.

After several reconstructive surgeries, doctors are confident they will save that arm, said Craig Driskell, Tarrant County executive chief deputy.

Barnes began his career with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department in 1991 as a detention officer and became a deputy before beginning to work for the Houston Police Department in 1994, Driskell said. Houston officers began calling Barnes "Tarrant County" because of his affiliation with the sheriff's office, officers here said.

Barnes has a wife, a 10-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, Driskell said. Barnes called Driskell Friday to thank him for the good wishes coming from all of his friends in Tarrant County.

"It's amazing to me that he's talking," Driskell said. "I asked him how he was doing and he said, 'Well," I've been better.' He seemed to be as good spirited as anyone could be in his situation."

Barnes appreciates the people in Tarrant County who still remember him, Driskell said. The wounded officer has fond memories of Tarrant County, calling his time working at the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department while simultaneously attending the police academy the hardest 10 weeks of his life up until now, according to Driskell.

Barnes and another law enforcement officer stationed at Santa Fe High School confronted the alleged shooter, a 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, within four minutes after the gunfire started, according to a report in The New York Times.

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John Barnes, 49, started his law enforcement career with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department in 1991. Barnes was struck in the arm in March by a shotgun blast at Santa Fe High School while protecting students. Courtesy Badge & Gun, official publication of the Houston Police Officer's Union

"He has a long road to recovery ahead of him," Driskell said.

The Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association has set up a fund to defray medical expenses for the Barnes family at the Tarrant County Credit Union, Driskell said.

Those who wish to donate can go in person to any branch office or mail checks to the Tarrant County Credit Union, 200 Taylor St., Suite 215, Fort Worth 76196, and address the donation to the TCLEA (Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association) Emergency Relief Fund.

The account will be kept open until June 14 and then the association will take whatever is collected to the Barnes family, Driskell said.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3

Members of the community gathered for a vigil to honor the victims of Friday's shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. A 17-year-old student armed with a shotgun and a pistol opened fire, killing 10 people, most of them students, authorities said.

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