‘There’s a stigma’: Wadesboro officers shot in the line of duty talk about trauma

WADESBORO, N.C. — Two Wadesboro police officers came back to the job after being shot in the line of duty and are now talking about the trauma they deal with -- and the help heroes need, too.

Last May, Officer Talmadge Legrand was chasing suspects through Wadesboro in the dark when one of those suspects shot him. Even with more than 15 years of experience on the job, he said it’s a moment you can’t quite prepare for.

“I’m calling on God at the same time, ‘Lord, have mercy; help me,’” he said.

The same suspect also shot at Officer Cuong Phan. The bullet just barely missed his body, hitting a piece of equipment on his uniform.

“I was only 30 days in,” Phan said.

After a brief recovery, Legrand put his uniform back on and returned to work.

“For me, it was no decision,” Legrand said.

The gunshot wound healed, but both officers had to process the trauma and prepare to go back on patrol.

“There is that scare of, it could have been worse,” Legrand said.

First responders aren’t strangers to trauma, but Phan said they need to be better at talking about it.

“There’s a stigma that comes along with it as well. You have to be strong. And if you have PTSD, or it affects you, then you’re a liability,” Phan said.

They want to shed a stigma surrounding their shield: That heroes can’t ask for help.

“We’re supposed to be those heroes who come and help everybody else,” Phan said.

Legrand said officers need to have a support system to feel comfortable speaking up when the job gets to be too much.

“If we can ever get to a place in law enforcement, where it’s OK that you’re not OK. Alright, today you need to be able to take a mental day,” Legrand said.

At a tense time to be a police officer, Phan worries that calls to defund departments will hurt efforts to get officers mental health support.

“It causes us to have a lack of training or a lack of resources for mental health,” Phan said.

These days, Legrand is learning to take more time for himself and his family. And throughout this past year, the two have leaned on each other for support.

They’ve become close friends, almost like brothers. They share a passion for fitness and enjoy hobbies together outside of policing to decompress.

“That’s what helps your mind to think of something else,” Legrand said.

Even after a night when they almost didn’t make it home, they’re just as passionate about helping their community.

“Everybody has something God has made them for,” Legrand said.

(WATCH: Officer recovering after being shot following chase; 3 suspects on the run)