July 9, 1999

Injured Bethany Officer Keeps Positive Outlook McCarthey Expects return to beat

By Bob Doucette Staff Writer

If determination means anything, Bethany police officer Tim McCarthey won't be put off by his injuries.

Progress was slow Thursday as he wheeled himself down a hallway of Integris Baptist Medical Center. His left arm, surgically repaired after it had been broken in two places, prevented him from pushing his wheelchair more then a few inches at a time. And the loss of his lower left leg halted his lean frame from striding confidently to wherever he pleased. But his maladies didn't stop him. Fighting the pain, he greeted his latest round of visitors, which included fellow officers, city officials and media.

His top concern at the moment? His understandably unkempt appearance. "Yeah, the hair looks like crude, Chief," McCarthey said to his boss Bethany Police Chief Neal Troutman.

McCarthey, 25, was injured when he was struck by motorcyclist Jason Hollingsworth, who police say was trying to evade arrest. The high-speed impact smashed his body, grieved his family members, and enraged his co-workers at the Bethany Police Department. "We shed a few tears that day," Troutman said.

Hollingsworth, 21, is being held in the Oklahoma County jail on complaints of attempted murder, reckless driving, attempting to elude police, maiming, driving without a license and driving with a suspended license. But when attention is shifted away from Hollingsworth and toward McCarthey, ill feelings give way to inspiration. "You're wearing me out just watching you," Troutman said.

McCarthey, drained after undergoing two operations in three days, stayed upbeat despite the circumstances that took away his leg and now threaten his career. Thursday was proclaimed "Tim McCarthey Day" in Bethany. "I'm doing great," he said. "I joke around a lot. I even joke about having no leg."

His family is another story. McCarthey's wife, Cassie, 24, smiled at visitors and looked as composed - If not quite as tired - as her husband. But McCarthey said his loved ones need as much of his optimism as they can get. "They've been doing a lot better than I thought they would. But they're taking it a lot harder then I am."

Now that the surgery is over, there is talk of recovery. Rehabilitation could begin in a matter of days and will likely last for several weeks. McCarthey said it will be six months before he receives a permanent prosthesis. As he regains his strength and learns to use a prosthetic leg, his attention will turn toward getting back on the beat. McCarthey is all cop. One of eight members of Bethany's bicycle patrol unit, he said he has no plans to look for another occupation.

"I don't want this to slow me down," he said. There are plenty of signs of encouragement surrounding him. At the hospital, his room is littered with cards and balloons from well wishers. Along Bethany's main thoroughfares, police officers and fire fighters are busy collecting donations from passing motorist. Within hours, more than $10,000 had been received on his behalf.

Back at the hospital, a package from the television show "COPS" was delivered. It contained a T-shirt and a baseball cap, both black, with the show's insignia written in bold, white letters. It also contained a videotape of an officer who is missing a leg and now uses a prosthesis.

The officer is shown running down, tackling and arresting an unnamed suspect. The suspect's identity and crime aren't important. What matters is that an otherwise ordinary arrest gives McCarthey visual proof that his duties don't have to end and they don't have to end and they don't have to be limited to desk duty.

He's pragmatic about his future, though. He doesn't plan to make his recovery anything more then it has to be. No skydiving, no treks up Mount Everst, no television commercials. None of the clichés attached to people overcoming disabilities. If things go well, that means rejoining Bethany's police force as soon as possible.

"He is one of our officers and always will be," said Bethany Mayor J.D. Johnston.