Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Cop gets second chance to help kids




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        The bank robber pointed his gun at Eddie Hawkins and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. At least not to Eddie.

        The robber's gun misfired. Eddie — a Cincinnati policeman since 1999 — fatally wounded the gunman.

        This brush with death, says Eddie, gave him “a second chance at life.”

        He intends to make the most of it by reviving the Teen Institute to help kids shun drugs.

        Eddie worked for the institute as a youth staff adviser while attending Woodward High School and the University of Cincinnati.

        Disbanded in 2000, the organization used workshops and retreats to encourage kids to live without drugs.

        Looking for ways to jump-start the institute with grants, Eddie plans to attend the PRIDE World Drug Prevention Conference, Wednesday through Saturday, at the convention center downtown. He'll be one of 4,500 participants.

        But he'll be the only one able to tell the story of what happened last year on the morning of Aug. 31. And how it changed his life.

        Eddie was working a security detail at a credit union in Roselawn. A robber walked in and flashed his gun. When Eddie told him to drop it, the gunman pointed his weapon at the officer and squeezed the trigger.

        Eddie fired.

        The robber pointed his gun at Eddie again. The officer fired two more shots. The robber died from his wounds later that morning.

        “The bullet was struck twice in that gun, and it didn't go off,” Eddie told me as we sat in the dining room of the Finneytown home he shares with his wife, Deanna, and their two children, Donniesha, 10, and Devin, 2.

        Eddie believes he was spared “because the good Lord must have something still for me to do.”

        “And I have to do it with kids, our kids. I always refer to the kids of Cincinnati as "our kids.' They belong to all of us. They're our future.”

        Eddie also has to do this for his mother. “She was always there for me. Always strong. I believe if someone does something for you, you thank them by passing it on to the next generation.”

        Since he joined the police department, Eddie has gone into many schools to talk about how drugs ruin lives.

        At every school, he's asked: “Have you ever shot anyone?”

        Until Aug. 31, he's always answered: “No. And I don't want to.”

        Since that day, Eddie hasn't visited any schools. He knows it's time he did. He also knows someone will ask him that question.

        “Hopefully, the Lord will speak through my mouth and I'll be able to give them an answer they will understand,” he said.

        “It's hard to tell a child you took a life. It's a horrible feeling. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.”

        Eddie thinks about what he calls “my incident” every day. He plays it back in his mind and asks what he could have done differently. The answer is always the same: Nothing.

        He's convinced he was destined to have this life-changing “incident.” It served to remind him, “I was put on this earth to work with young people.

        “Hopefully, someone in this great city will give me the opportunity to work with kids full time.”

        Right now, he works the 3-11 p.m. shift in District 4. He'd like to become a school resource officer. Or a DARE instructor.

        He wants to teach kids there's more to life than drugs and that he's pulling for them.

        “I'd like for them to know that there's somebody out there that's always going to have their back. No matter what.”

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at cradel@enquirer.com; 768-8379; fax 768-8340. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/radel

       



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