FORT WORTH –– Arlington police Det. Charles Lodatto continues to recover Wednesday in a Fort Worth hospital after narrowly escaping a potentially lethal bullet fired at him by a capital murder suspect. The trauma surgeon who operated on the 21-year veteran said first responders deserve credit for saving his life.
The bullet entered in his groin area. He would have bled to death within minutes from a punctured femoral artery.
Lodatto was shot while serving a capital murder warrant at the home of Tyler Holder, the 17-year-old suspect in the rape and murder of six-year-old Alanna Gallagher on July 1. The Saginaw girl was found alongside a residential street, bound by duct tape and hidden inside a tarp.
Holder was also shot in the head during the shooting.
In an exclusive interview with News 8, the six first responders who tended to the wounded Arlington detective described arriving to find police officers fighting to keep Lodatto alive.
"Their focus was on cheering him on, to not let him fade, not to let him go unconscious, not to let him stop fighting," said Saginaw Fire Department Lt. Brian Meroney.
While another team treated suspect Holder for his head wound, Meroney tended to Lodatto.
He says the officer himself had first applied pressure to his gushing femoral artery, but he quickly weakened. Then a Saginaw detective took over until fire fighters arrived, packed the wound and cinched it tight with a leather belt. They say the detective provided expert medical care. But the seasoned medics say they had never seen anyone survive so much blood loss.
"To be honest , I didn't think he was going to make it,” Meroney said Wednesday. "I didn't either," added fellow fire fighter Mark Perry.
Doubts crept in. They pushed them out.
"Is this my brother going to die?” Meroney wondered. “How am I going to live with that, or explain to his family what happened?”
A MedStar crew arrived within 10 minutes. They had been positioned nearby based on past need for ambulances in that area at that particular time of day. The timing couldn’t have been much better.
Lodatto was in an ambulance just six minutes later with a medical tourniquet on his right groin.
"We had the bleeding stopped probably within 45 seconds of being in the ambulance," said paramedic Tim Penic.
The first responders say timing meant everything Tuesday. Normally, some of the Saginaw fire fighters would have been at a station across town. But because they were changing out equipment and personnel, they were all in one station near the scene and standing by their trucks when the call came in.
"It was a perfect script," said Meroney.
While the doctor credits the responders for Lodatto's survival, they say the detective willed himself to live. The detective shared a different view as the ambulance raced to the hospital. As the siren screamed, Lodatto calmly asked his caregivers a question.
"He looked at the fire fighter and me and he literally asked if we were right with God,” said Tim Penic. “I'm not a particularly religious person. I told him I’m not, but I envy your faith. But I don’t have any."
Penic changed the subject. Lodatto wouldn't let him.
"The last thing he said as we were getting out of the ambulance at the hospital, he stopped and grabbed my hand and said you need to go to church on Sunday," Penic, laughed.
The Saginaw fire fighters say they laughed about it again with Lodatto when they went to visit him Wednesday morning. But firefighter David Walker says the wounded officer brought it up again.
“He said thank you to us," he said. "And then he said make sure you tell Tim he needs to go to church on Sunday.”
Thanks to Saginaw firefighter Derek Mayhue and MedStar paramedic Curtis Cahill for contributing to this report.