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On paper, Fresno police officer Brian Nieto retired from the force during a “logging off” ceremony Thursday at City Hall.
But in his mind, he’s still a cop, said Nieto, a former motorcycle officer who nearly died after being shot three times during a traffic stop in 2006.
“It’s hard to give up what I’m used to doing. I’ve still not let go of it,” said Nieto, 34.
Nieto and six other officers retired before a capacity crowd in the Fresno City Council chambers.
He and other retirees — James Barnard, James Brewer, Michael Cavallero, Alan Davis, John Kratt and Robert Sears — have more than 196 collective years of service among them.
Nieto was an officer for five years.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer described each officer’s contribution to the department, teasing some of them, like Brewer, his former beat partner.
But Dyer, his voice halting with emotion, had some special words for Nieto.
In critical condition for 30 days after he was shot, Nieto survived because of “God’s miraculous hand,” Dyer said.
“He was not able to continue as a police officer, but he was able to continue with his life. Thank you for the service and sacrifice that almost cost you your life. God bless you,” Dyer said.
The audience gave Nieto a standing ovation.
During the ceremony, each officer called the department’s dispatch center over a hand-held police radio to log off duty for the last time.
Nieto hesitated for a few seconds when it was his turn to log off on the radio.
The dispatcher’s response to Nieto — as to each retired officer in turn — was broadcast to all police units on duty across the city and to the chamber audience: “Attention all units. Officer Nieto is logging off. Job well done, Officer Nieto.”
After the ceremony, Nieto shook hands and hugged friends, family members and other officers.
He shared a long and tearful hug with officer Junus Perry, who was also injured in the line of duty.
Perry, a campus officer at Roosevelt High School, suffered a severe neck injury in April when Jesus “Jesse” Carrizales, 17, hit him on the head with a wooden baseball bat, knocking him to the ground. Perry shot and killed Carrizales.
Like Nieto, Perry has not returned to work. Perry said the two share a bond and are helping each other recover.
“Together, we’re both going to get through this,” Perry said.
When Nieto was shot by Joaquin Figueroa, the bullets punctured his liver, stomach, bladder, diaphragm, leg and arm.
Three days after the shooting, officers shot and killed Figueroa as he dived into a car driven by his aunt. Officers said they feared Figueroa had access to weapons in the car.
Nieto said he lives with constant pain and has “good days and bad days.” He spends most days resting and doing physical therapy at home.
Nieto said nerve damage to his left leg prevented him from returning to duty.
“I thought I’d be able to overcome everything, but the nerve damage is holding me back,” Nieto said.
He made the decision to retire a few months ago. “It was time to make the decision,” he said. He has no regrets.
Nieto said he has not decided what new career to follow but may do background investigation work.
Ten new police officers were sworn in at the ceremony: Stephanie Alvarez, Adrian Diaz, Amada Galaviz, Christopher Gallagher, Gregory Johnson, Issac Mendoza, Sophath Meak, Conor O’Neill, Stephanie Pope and William Richards III.
Officer Brian Phillips was promoted to the rank of sergeant.