By Reggie Ellis

Today, Sept. 15 is the tentative date set for the retirement of one of Exeter's finest - police officers and human beings included.

Officer Rick Grimsley announced that he would retire last week for financial and family reasons.

"This decision will allow me to get retirement, concentrate on my rehabilitation and spend more time with my family," he said.

The decision comes two years after he was nearly killed by a drunk driver on Sept. 1, 2001. That night, Grimsley and a police trainee made a traffic stop along Highway 65 near Firebaugh Avenue. While getting some paperwork out of the trunk of the patrol car, a drunk driver slammed into the rear of the car, pinning the officer in between and severing both of his legs near the knee. Grimsley spent several weeks in a coma and then remained in the intensive care unit for more than a month recuperating from his injuries.

Since February 2003, Grimsley has been working in a limited role at the Exeter Police Department. He spends much of his time doing time-consuming duties such as background checks, call-backs, follow up interviews to ongoing investigations and other various department paperwork.

"I can't see myself working in an office for 21 year," the 34-year-old officer said. "The city has done everything they can to accommodate me. I think it is better for everyone if I look at a new career."

Grimsley has wanted to be a police officer ever since he was a young boy. Even after his accident, he vowed to return to field work and patrol the streets of Exeter. Six months ago the City of Exeter gave him the option of either remaining at his current position or retiring with benefits. After talking with injured officers on both sides of the spectrum, Grimsley decided it would be better for his family, the department and the city of Exeter if he moved on.

"I will probably regret it in a couple of years," he said. "But after working in an office for a couple of years I might have regretted not doing it. What I want to do isn't something I can do anymore. I didn't want to retire but I realized that being on patrol is just not possible."

Small Steps

But as one dream comes to an end another approaches.

For the last two months Grimsley has been learning to walk using prosthetic legs called "stubbies" during rehabilitation sessions at Kaweah Delta's outpatient facility near San Juan Health Center in Exeter. Stubbies are actually the ankle and foot joints of the full length prosthetics that will be added later.

"I wasn't that tall to begin with so I don't notice much," Grimsley joked.

Grimsley said the idea is to regain the strength and balance of the muscles in his legs before attempting to rest his full weight on them. The stubbies allow Grimsley to rehabilitate without having to fall very far. Grimsley said he can walk a city block with a walker on the stubbies. His next step will be to walk with a cane instead.

"You can't believe how hard it is to walk a block," he said. "My arms are just as tired as my legs."

The one-hour rehabilitation sessions are intense and demanding. Grimsley said he is often exhausted when he arrives at the police station for work after the three sessions per week.

"That was another factor that went into my decision [to retire]," he said. "This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. When I first started using the wheelchair I never thought I would be comfortable, but now, the wheelchair seems much more natural than walking. I really need to put my focus into my rehabilitation and myself."

Grimsley said he has considered going back to school and becoming an officer safety instructor at the College of Sequoias Police Academy. He also said he wouldn't mind being a "stay-at-home-mom" and let Anna go back to school to study nursing. Grimsley said his wife became interested in nursing after watching Kaweah Delta's staff take good care of her husband when he was in a coma and enduring more than 10 major surgeries during his three weeks in the hospital.

"She gained a great appreciation and respect for what they did," he said. "After taking care of all of us at home it is time for her to do what she wants."

Dream Home

There is no doubt what the entire family wants - to walk through the door to their new home. Construction crews broke ground on the Grimsleys' new home on Sept. 8, 2003, days after the one year anniversary of the accident. Grimsley said he and his family can hardly wait until the project is complete.

"Everyday we drive by to see the progress and I always wish we were pulling up the driveway to come home for the night," he said.

The 2,036 square foot home has been completely paid for through donations and in-kind services. The four bedroom, two bathroom home is completely handicap accessible. The master bathroom will have a roll-in shower for his wheelchair. All cabinets and counters will be lower and the hallways and doorways slightly wider. All appliances will have front loading and there will be a sidewalk all the way around the back yard and house.

"Even though I'll have prosthetics you still most of your time at home in the wheelchair," Grimsley said. "If you keep the prosthetics on too long you can have severe blisters and sores."

Grimsley said all that remains is about a week's worth of plumbing and electrical work at his new home.

Grimsley family is also much larger. Grimsley's two sons - Brandon, 11, and Joshua, 7 - moved in with he and Anna after their mother, Katherine Anne Grimsley, 29, was shot and killed in a murder-suicide by her former roommate. Katherine Grimsley and Rick Grimsley were separated in 1999, when she and their two sons moved to Pendleton, Ore. Rick and Anna also have a daughter, 6-year-old Vanessa.

"My youngest son still wants me to be a cop, but it will be better if I can be at home more," Grimsley said. "I will miss the camaraderie and being with the guys more than anything, but hopefully they won't take away my key and I will still be spending a lot of time down here."

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