Kelly Bradford was trying to stay close to home so that he could be with his wife when their fifth child was born.
But that paternal duty placed the 34-year-old San Juan County deputy sheriff within reach of a dangerous call that almost cost his life Thursday.A few days earlier, Bradford had assisted numerous other law enforcement officers in the nearby hunt for three fugitives wanted in the murder of a Cortez, Colo., police officer. By Thursday, he was back on normal duty.
But instead of reporting to his command center in Monticello, Bradford was working near Blanding about 1:30 p.m. when he responded to a shooting involving a state Division of Family Services social worker near Bluff, about 20 miles south of Blanding.
"It was no surprise that he answered that call," said Bradford's oldest sister, Terri Winder. "He was responding because he wanted to protect other people, even with his family situation."
Aware of the danger he faced, Bradford donned a protective vest before arriving at the site. But upon arrival, he was shot twice in the left shoulder and side, just below the heart.
Within minutes of the shooting, Bradford's LDS ward leaders visited his wife, Cindy Bradford, to tell her the news. Family members rushed to the Blanding Medical Center, where they were relieved to see that Bradford was still alive.
"He has quite a smile and a kind of twinkle in his eyes," Winder said. "I looked in his eyes and saw he still had that twinkle and I knew he'd be OK."
While paramedics worked furiously to stabilize his vital signs, Bradford felt well enough to tell his siblings what had happened. He never saw the shooter. He was talking on the radio standing outside his vehicle when a bullet struck him.
"After the first shot, he dropped to the ground and was trying to crawl for cover when he was shot again," Winder said.
Both bullets went through the vest and his body. Neither bullet struck vital organs, but the wounds caused substantial blood loss. A Blanding police officer responding to the call found him moments later and called an ambulance.
A medical helicopter transferred Bradford from the tiny local clinic to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. His wife, oldest brother and parents were among family members who drove the 120 miles to the hospital to be by his side. He was initially listed in serious condition but was upgraded to good condition Friday morning.
Bradford's father, former Blanding Mayor Cleal Bradford, and his mother were driving home from Salt Lake City when they learned the news. The couple was returning from a trip to visit a daughter in Alaska.
Kelly Bradford's four children, ages 3, 6, 9 and 11, spent the night with Winder.
"I felt like it was a hazy, bad dream. Why did it have to be him?" said Bradford's oldest son, Charles, when asked how he felt about the incident.
Shortly after the shooting, Winder invited Bradford's children to kneel in prayer with her family. After the prayer, "I felt like everything was going to be OK," said Mandy, Bradford's 9-year-old daughter.
Bradford, the youngest of seven children, is a longtime member of the National Guard and an eight-year veteran of the San Juan Sheriff's Department. Since most of the town's 4,000 residents have been "glued to scanners" with the ongoing manhunt, news about the shooting spread quickly, Winder said.
"The whole community is just like family," she said. "It just seems like such a senseless thing, and here, in this quiet little town, it's not something that we'd expect."