Joey Terrell felt like he was going in slow motion.
The Habersham County sheriff recalled the moments before taking a bullet to the tricep during a deadly ambush on officers Feb. 22 in Clarkesville.
“I was really concentrating on my other deputy. I was concentrating on him, trying to see him and see if he is OK, and it just happens,” Terrell said. “I felt the burning sensation in my arm and knew I’d been hit.”
It wasn’t until the trip to the hospital, he said, that the pain settled in after the rush of adrenaline.
Terrell and Cpl. Bill Zigan took fire after responding to a deadly domestic call in the Winding Stair subdivision.
“I’m healing up,” Terrell said. “Cpl. Zigan is doing better. He’s had surgery on his shoulder and rotator cuff. The doctor said everything went well, and he’s progressing.”
Though restricted from driving at first, Terrell said he returned to work the following Monday. Zigan receives physical therapy treatment while making regular trips to the doctor.
“The peer counseling group that the state has ... they come in and we talk with them,” Terrell said. “Of course, I’ve talked with my pastor and my family.”
Terrell said the hope is for Zigan to possibly return to light duty in a couple of weeks.
Under duress, the mind of a law enforcement officer hones in on the training for high-pressure situations, Terrell said.
After Zigan suffered an injury to his right shooting arm, he placed his service weapon in his left hand to remain armed and alert.
“He doesn’t remember any of that, but he did,” Terrell said. “Your mind just goes some place and you just do it.”
In the aftermath, Terrell began pondering the decisions made, their results and the lives lost. Authorities believe the shooter, 41-year-old Anthony Giaquinta, killed his ex-wife Kathy Smith Giaquinta and Steven Thomas Singleton, 45, of Flowery Branch. Anthony Giaquinta died in the incident.
“For the first few days, it was hard to go to sleep and not think about what transpired, to think about the families. Everybody was touched by this,” Terrell said.
Some time is needed to process these thoughts and questions, Terrell said, before he could put this out of his mind, although he asks to keep the surviving family members in people’s prayers.
Terrell said he has been overwhelmed with the response from local, state and federal agencies expressing their support through cards, food and other donations.
“Sometimes we get in a rut and worry about life and soccer games and golf matches and all the stuff of life that gets in the way sometimes,” Terrell said. “You don’t want something like this to have to make you take a minute, but we all need to take a minute to really, really appreciate our families and loved ones, because you never know what might happen.”