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'I wish I could be there with him, fighting with him': Injured St. Louis officer reflects on shooting, partner's battle for survival

Nathan Spiess, 28, was shot in the left leg, while his partner, Colin Ledbetter, 25, was shot twice.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Police Officer Nathan Spiess said didn’t feel the gunshot that shattered his left femur until he tried to get up and run after the man who was shooting at him and his partner, Officer Colin Ledbetter.

“I fell back to the ground and knew I was shot,” Spiess wrote in response to questions from 5 On Your Side. “I was more focused on catching the suspect and making sure my partner and other officers were alright.”

Spiess, 28, and Ledbetter, 25, were shot Wednesday following a pursuit with a homicide suspect. A third officer shot and killed that suspect. Two other men who were inside the suspect’s vehicle are facing multiple charges.

Ledbetter was shot twice and rushed to the hospital in unstable condition with critical injuries.

Spiess, who has been with the force for 2 1/2 years was shot once. Doctors placed a rod and several screws inside his leg, and he was released from the hospital Sunday.

Credit: St. Louis police

A police escort accompanied him on the journey home. His fellow officers lined the driveway to salute and hug him.

Ledbetter is improving in the hospital – no longer in critical condition after recovering from a life-threatening wound to his femoral artery. Doctors removed him from a ventilator Sunday. 

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“I wish I could be there holding his hand and next to his family as he fights his difficult battle,” Spiess wrote.

Spiess said officers would give him updates about Ledbetter while the two were hospitalized together, and, when Ledbetter would regain consciousness, he would ask his Spiess was doing, too.

“That should be a testament of not only how strong Officer Ledbetter is but how much he cares about other people,” Spiess wrote. “Having worked with Colin, I know how tough and strong he is.

“He had a plan for everything and most officers would go to him for advice and look at him as a leader. I knew Colin was going to fight as hard as he can, in which he showed everyone how strong and truly amazing he is. There were guardian angels looking out for him that day. If I did not believe in miracles then, I do now.”

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Spiess also said the love and support of his family and strangers have helped him recover – especially his twin brother, Nick, who is a St. Louis firefighter, and his sister, Sara.

Credit: DJ Shocklee

“My brother being one of the toughest men I know, has reassured me I will beat whatever comes my way,” he wrote. “My sister has not left my side and made sure I had as much comfort as possible while providing me with whatever I need.”

He continued: “I want the community to know, whether we’re strangers or best friends I love you and I thank you. I would not be where I am right now if it was not for all the help, love, and prayers. It is a testament to show that even in the darkest of times light will always prevail, and the community, friends, and family are that light. I wish I could express the amount of gratitude that I have. It should not take a negative experience like mine, for people to show kindness and love to one another. If we were able to express more positive feelings instead of negative interactions there would be less tragedies in this world. The world is a dark place and it is up to us a human beings to make it brighter, by treating everyone with a bit of love and kindness.”

Despite all of the love and support surrounding him, his thoughts are never far from Ledbetter.

“I wish I could be there with him, fighting with him, as we were the day this tragic event occurred.”

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