Editor's note: In the news business, names and faces come and go - many of them never to be publicly seen or heard from again. In its weekly series, "Where and Whence," the Deseret News will provide readers with an update on Utahns - past and present - who were once the focus of public attention.
Nick Kirk has a pretty good attitude for someone who was shot by a criminal during a daring daylight escape attempt.Ronnie Lee Gardner shot and killed lawyer Mike Burdell and critically injured Kirk during a frenzied escape attempt at the Metropolitan Hall of Justice. Gardner was sentenced to die. The case is on appeal.
Kirk was sentenced to what seems to him like an eternity of waiting for the courts and commissions to clear the way for his suit over injuries suffered in the April 1985 shooting.
The personable bailiff heard shots as Gardner broke away from prison guards who were escorting the killer to 3rd District Court for a hearing in a separate shooting incident that left a bartender dead. An ally on the outside had left a handgun on a water fountain for Gardner.
In the process, Kirk was shot once in his left side as he rushed down the stairs to make sure the judge was not in the line of fire. The bullet went through Kirk's stomach, intestines and hip.
"I do like this judge and I sure wouldn't want anything to happen to him," Kirk said as he sat in the jury room adjacent to Judge James Sawaya's court.
As in most cases, it's harder on the person in the waiting room than in the operating room. So it was for Kirk's wife, VelDean, who is a secretary in the Salt Lake County sheriff's office and looks forward to retiring with her husband of 40 years.
Kirk filed suit criticizing methods used to transport prisoners to court. Security measures have been refined since the shooting.
"My leg still hurts. My stomach still has fragments in it." Long hikes during the deer hunt are out of the question, Kirk said. But bitterness is sporadic for the grandfather of eight.
The shooting changed the 62-year-old bailiff's perspective. He tends to takes things in stride a bit more, but he's also more watchful. "I'm more on guard than I've ever been. I haven't completely relaxed. I hope I do some day."
But there are no regrets for Kirk, who has spent a lifetime in various law enforcement roles.
"I don't regret what I've done," he said, taking a drag on a cigarette as he looks over a gloomy Salt Lake street. "Working anywhere in law enforcement, you don't know what you're going to get."
What Kirk and his wife will get eventually is retirement. Kirk has a few years left until he hits 10 years as a bailiff, and his wife has four years until she reaches 20 years with the sheriff's department.
"I was asked why I even came back," Kirk said, sounding slightly surprised that someone would even ask the question. "This is my job. I like my job."
Both Kirks like fishing, and heading to the hills for some angling is at the top of their list. They also enjoy taking the grandkids on camping and fishing excursions. They are, generally, just enjoying life.