Lucia Wade has no recollection of speaking the words. But she's told that as she lay broken, torn and mostly unconscious in an intensive-care unit 15 months ago, she made at least two notable utterances.
"Did they catch him?" the once fleet-footed, 5-foot-4, 120-pound Santa Rosa police officer had asked of no one in particular at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. "Oh, man," she'd softly rued in another waking moment, "I was just getting good at this job."
She'd searched into her mid-30s for a line of work that challenged, rewarded and exhilarated her. She was a Marin County parochial school athletics director, physical trainer, globe-trotting technical writer, eradicator of invasive plants on Mount Tamalpais and crime-scene evidence technician.
That last job, a civilian post that involved assisting Santa Rosa police officers, came close to being her dream job. But observing and getting to know the officers ignited in her an aspiration to become one.
"I wanted to chase bad guys," Wade, now 39, said in her first public interview since almost being killed in the line of duty. "Actually, I didn't want to chase bad guys, but I wanted to catch them."
She applied to become a cop, passed the stringent tests and bore down at the police academy. In June 2006, she was sworn in by then-Santa Rosa Police Chief Ed Flint. Her mother, Sarah Jennings, pinned on her badge as her dad, Alan Wade, beamed. Officer Lucia (LU-shah) Wade had found her passion and she was determined not to lose her suspect when on Oct. 11, 2009, within minutes of the end of a quiet shift and of her work week, she ran onto Santa Rosa Avenue while shouting "Stop!" at a fleeing man she believed to be a mugger.
That was to be her final act as a peace officer.
She doesn't recall running into the path of a black BMW that she apparently hadn't seen behind a larger vehicle. Horrified onlookers watched the impact send her headlong into the car's windshield, hurl her into the air and slam her hard onto the pavement.
The guy she was pursuing, 43-year-old Manuel "Manny" Santiago, who days before was alleged to have pushed a man down on Barham Avenue and stolen his cell phone, ran safely across the busy four-lane boulevard. But no farther.
Truck driver Andy Brewster, who was buying a beer at Steel Deli & Liquor, heard a commotion and saw a woman in a dark blue uniform get flung skyward. Spotting a guy running toward the liquor-store parking lot, Brewster bolted over and grabbed him.
The suspect tried to pull free and cried to Brewster, "Let me go! I'm having a seizure."
Brewster tightened his grip and replied, "Let me help you have one."
Santiago later would be sentenced to four years in prison.
Back in Santa Rosa Avenue's far-right northbound lane, witnesses, fellow police officers, firefighters and paramedics gazed in horror at the crumpled officer. She'd suffered terrible injuries to her face and head.
Friends who work in emergency medicine would confide to her later that in their experience, pedestrians struck down in accidents like that usually don't survive. She thinks protection from her bulletproof vest was largely responsible for that.
"I don't remember what happened," Wade said over coffee at a Santa Rosa caf?
While on duty, the focused and understated graduate of Massachusetts' prestigious Smith College kept her brown hair pulled tightly back, but nowadays she wears a more casual, free style. She sports glasses that help some with eyesight problems she's endured since the accident but don't resolve a stubborn case of double vision.
"I don't remember most of the hospital stay," she said.
She does, however, recall most of that Sunday patrol shift. She certainly remembers what a fellow southwest beat officer said to her after they spoke early that day about checking in on an ex-con suspected of violating parole.
"He wagged his finger at me and said, &‘No foot pursuits!' "
Not every patrol cop is built for or fond of running after crime suspects. But Wade was a serious recreational runner - 15 marathons, six 50-kilometer runs - and to her, foot pursuits were something she didn't shy from and something she wanted to get better at.
It wasn't about sprinting after a bad guy, tackling him, perhaps trading punches and wrestling him into handcuffs. That's the TV model. What Wade strived to do when a suspect bolted on foot was to keep pace with him and use her two-way radio to describe his appearance, location and direction of travel to fellow officers who, ideally, would intercept him.
"I'm proud of my foot pursuits," she said. "It's unfortunate that my career had to end in one. But I was doing my job as best as I knew how."