The Boulder police officer who was seriously injured in a scuffle with a man suspected of slashing tires on his patrol vehicle on Oct. 16 says he is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he has received from the community and his co-workers.
Sgt. Jim Byfield, a 29-year veteran of the department, spoke to reporters for the first time since the incident during a press conference on Nov. 4.
Also at the press conference, Sgt. Thomas Trujillo confirmed that police have obtained a DNA profile of the suspect that they hope will find a match in a newly expanded DNA database that now includes profiles from anyone charged with a felony. Prior to last month, when a new state law went into effect, the database was limited to samples from convicted felons. Trujillo said the DNA profile of the suspect has not been matched with any in the database yet, but police remain hopeful.
Byfield, 53, had to undergo surgery for his injuries, which included a concussion and fractures in his clavicle, elbow, ribs and hand. He says his memory of being assaulted is coming back gradually — he recalls giving chase after the suspect began running away from police near 11th and College streets. Byfield says he also remembers catching up to the suspect and grabbing him, and then being knocked down. Before he lost consciousness, he used his police radio to air a description of the suspect and the direction he was headed. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital, Byfield says.
He feels lucky he wasn’t hurt more seriously by the suspect, who had a knife.
“He could have taken my gun, so I’m very fortunate to be here today,” Byfield told reporters, adding that a suspect who is willing to attack a cop is a threat to the whole community. “I think everybody’s in danger if he’s that type of person.”
The reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest was recently increased to $10,500.
When asked what he would say to the suspect if given the chance, Byfield replied that he would just ask why he assaulted him — was he just trying to get away? Why was he slashing the tires?
In response to a question about whether the incident will change the way he approaches suspects when he returns to work next week, Byfield says he “may be a little more cautious, maybe more wary that people like that are out there.”
He told Boulder Weekly that despite the assault, he doesn’t feel like there has been a rise in hostility toward local law enforcement, and that relations with CU students, especially on the Hill, are positive.
He even says the incident has made him feel rejuvenated, simply because of the massive support he has received from the department and community members.
“It’s just been overwhelming,” he said of the letters, baskets and food that people have given him.
Then he adds a word of caution.
“I just want to tell my fellow officers to be careful.”