John Lally of Houston, Texas isn’t your typical hero. With a rap sheet a mile long and multiple stints in prison, he’s spent a lot of his life on the wrong side of the law.
It would be easy to assume that when it comes to Lally and cops, there’s no love lost. For years, they’ve been on opposite sides.
And yet, when he got caught in the middle of a deadly shootout and had a choice to save himself or the life of a downed officer, he didn’t even hesitate.
What Happened When an Ex-con Came to a Gun Fight
Lally, who works for a landscaping company, was on his third gravel run of the morning when he heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights in his rearview mirror.
This time, however, the police weren’t after him. They were in hot pursuit of a 19-year-old male carjacker. Refusing to give himself up, the suspect sped down the highway until he lost control and struck multiple vehicles.
Lally immediately pulled over to help the crash victims. But instead of finding himself in the middle of an accident scene, he found himself smack dab in the middle of an active shootout between several police officers and the suspect.
As he ran to take cover from the barrage of bullets whizzing through the air, he witnessed an officer, John Gibson, go down, suffering a gunshot wound to the leg.
While most people’s instinct would be to duck and cover, Lally isn’t most people.
At the risk of his own life, and with his cell phone recording, Lally threw himself into the line of fire. Bullets flying around him, he only had one thought on his mind, “I just was on a mission to go grab him,” Lally told CNN.
With the help of another officer, Lally dragged Officer Gibson to safety.
Why an Ex-con Chose to Save a Wounded Police Officer
As the Houston police officers worked to stop the gunman, Lally refused to leave Gibson’s side. He understood what the officer was going through, having also once been shot in the leg.
“Hold my hand. You’re going to be OK. Hold my hand,” he reassured Gibson, the father of a 20-month-old, over and over again.
As the minutes ticked by, Lally told Gibson he believed he was there for a reason.
“I’ve been to prison twice, man. I’ve been to state jail once,” Lally can be heard in the recording obtained by CNN.
“The last time I was locked up, they offered me 25 years, man. I had no choice but to get out and change my life … and I’m here with you, like it was my calling to be here with you today.”
Finally, after more than 10 minutes, the suspect, having sustained multiple gunshot wounds, was subdued. He later died of his injuries.
Gibson was transported to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. Lally stayed behind to make certain that the crash victims were all okay.
From Criminal to Hero: Ex-con Is Now Being Recognized for His Heroism
Lally may have a long history of criminal charges, including aggravated assault, theft of property, narcotic use, and weapon possession, but he’s not letting that stop him from changing his life around.
And saving a police officer’s life is a pretty amazing redemptive arc.
The Houston Police Department thinks so too. In a press conference, police chief Troy Finner said Lally deserves to be celebrated.
“People make mistakes,” he said of Lally’s past brushes with the law. “But a truly reformed individual is a person that we can use. He stepped up and other citizens stepped up, and I don’t want that to get lost.”
The U.S. Police, Fire, and EMS Foundation is planning to honor Lally with a service award for his act of heroism.
As for Lally, he’s taking the rescue, which occurred on November 11, as a sign of new beginnings.
“This is somebody’s life, so at the end of the day, I think we should all do anything and everything that we can to help people,” he said. “11/11 is the Angel’s number, but it also represents new beginnings.”
It seems like he’s off to a pretty incredible start.
While society may deem a criminal an unlikely hero, we all, regardless of our past mistakes, or maybe even because of them, have the ability to grow and change and choose to do better. It’s the great part of being human.