YUCCA VALLEY — Not long after he was shot numerous times by rogue former police officer Christopher Dorner, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Detective Alex Collins, struggling to breathe and choking on his own blood, silently told God he was ready to die.
He reached for his cellphone.
This was only part of the story he told as guest speaker at the Community Prayer Breakfast held Friday, Nov. 22, in the Joshua Springs Thunderdome.
“I was choking on my own blood and teeth,” he said. “I was going to call my wife and say I love you and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to make it home tonight.”
Collins did not make that call. When he reached his cellphone, he realized it had been shattered by one of Dorner’s bullets. That made him angry.
“Not only did this guy shoot me, but now I can’t call my wife,” he told dignitaries from across the Morongo Basin who gathered in the Christian school’s gym.
He said he nearly gave up, but felt that God told him it was not his time.
“You have to fight for it, it’s not going to be given to you. You have to fight for your life,” is the message he believes he got that day.
While Collins told the story of his nearly fatal encounter with Dorner, he began with a caveat.
“It is not about me; people don’t want to hear about how I got shot and how I got better,” he said. “It is about the people who not only saved my life, but changed me.”
So while he spoke in great detail about the shooting, starting with a first bullet that hit him in the face, he also spoke about the people who helped him, starting with his fellow sheriff’s deputies, who risked their lives to pull him and his partner, Jeremiah MacKay, out of the line of fire.
“These are the bravest guys I have ever met,” he said. “If I could be half the men these guys are, I’ll be doing OK. They risked their lives to save mine so I could be here speaking today.”
Collins mixed his tale with dark humor, as when he realized, while being taken from the incident location in the back of someone’s truck, that he was bleeding profusely into someone’s new boots.
“I was just thinking, ‘Whoever’s boots these are is going to be pissed,’” he said.
He mentioned the doctor who rode with him on the helicopter to Loma Linda University Medical Center and encouraged him to hang on and not give up.
“Are you kidding me, brother, you’re going to be OK,” he doctor told him. “We’re going to be having beers next week.”
Collins’ story continued until he went under the anesthesia for the first of a long series of operations.
“I woke up about a week later surrounded by family and friends,” he said, adding that his room was filled with cards and well wishes, many from people he had never met.
“I have met people I’ve never met before who said they have been praying for me for months,” he said. “I read every single letter that was written to me while I was in the hospital. I had a lot of free time. The community really loves us and that means a lot.”
He talked about his wife, Lila, and how he felt like a burden to her and their newly-born son, Benjamin, when he came home from the hospital.
“There was this overwhelming burden I felt I was putting on my wife,” he said.
There were times, he said, when he wondered why it had all happened to him. Then he made an important discovery about himself.
“This changed my life and it changed me for the better,” he said.
He said he thought about all the love and prayers he had received from people he would never know and realized there was so much more he could do to help others.
After presentations to the deputies who were caught up in the shootout that fateful day, the morning was wrapped up with one more presentation: flowers to Collins’ wife, Lila.