CLEVELAND -- For the first time, a Cleveland police officer talks about being shot at, from point-blank range, by a man wanted for a burglary and shooting. He says his story is an example of the dangers officers face on city streets every day.
"The barrel looked like it was about right here and like I said, I temporarily went blind and deaf because of it," Officer Billy Edwards said.
The seven-year veteran talked exclusively to Fox 8 about a day he will never forget. On Jan. 21, he was in a scuffle with a robbery suspect, when the man pulled a gun and fired a shot, narrowly missing him. The whizzing bullet left burn marks on his face.
"It's an image that probably lasted a split second, but it seemed like an hour and it was almost like I couldn't do anything about it... It was in my face and whatever happened, thank God I got out of the way in time," he said.
Around 5 p.m., officers responded to a call about a burglary at a home on East 61st Street. Police said the suspect had already fired a shot at the 82-year-old homeowner, who came home during the burglary. Investigators said about an hour and a half later, Officer Edwards and his partner saw the suspect's vehicle in a driveway on Redell Avenue.
They said 37-year old Ellis Tiller then jumped out of the passenger side and fired when Edwards caught up with him.
"My partner continued to struggle with him and eventually we were able to win, thank God," Edwards said.
On Monday, Tiller was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. Officer Edwards said he forgives him, but finds it harder to forgive bystanders on the street who were shouting vulgarities and taunting him, even though he never fired a shot.
"It's just one of the cases where people probably had a lot of emotions that they wanted to express from previous experiences or whatever might have happened in their past, but they didn't know what happened," he said.
Edwards said his life-threatening situation shows how dangerous an officer's job can be.
"Sometimes we have to be that blue line between the sheep and the wolves, and this particular day, I happened to come across a wolf," the officer told Fox 8 News.
Edwards said he hopes there's an end to the "us-versus-them" mentality between some people in the community and police.
"It's us together and we're community and we're part of it, just like the folks that live in it, work in it, travel through it, and we're here to help," he said.
Officer Edwards’ partner suffered a bump on his head and cuts on his hand during the scuffle.
The driver of the vehicle, Dwayne Sheron, 33, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and was sentenced to one year of probation.
Officer Edwards returned to the street about a month after the incident.