Northwest NEWS

June 21, 1999

Features

Gary Lindell

Full recovery expected for injured mounted policeman

by Deborah Stone, features writer

   Gary Lindell of Woodinville has been with the Seattle Police Department for thirty-four years.

   He began his career with the SPD as a cadet when he was eighteen years old and gradually moved up the ladder to the rank of detective in the auto theft division. After twenty-five years with auto theft and several years on the streets in a patrol car, he made the transition to a mounted officer three summers ago.

   "My husband has always liked riding horses and when our kids were younger, we had a few," says Margaret Lindell, Gary's wife. "He was very aware of the Department's program for mounted officers because it's been in operation for twenty-five years and his goal was to one day be a part of that program."

   Lindell's goal became a reality three summers ago when he was accepted into the specialized department for mounted officers. He underwent intensive training on the horses and learned to work with them in a variety of different ways.

   The average age for a mounted officer is thirty, and at fifty, Lindell was the oldest one in his group, but according to his wife, he was able to run and vault over the horses better than the younger men.

   "Gary was thoroughly enjoying himself working the areas of Green Lake, Pioneer Square, and Alki, as well as going to schools and conducting educational programs for schools," says Margaret. "His true love is helping people."

   On May 4, Lindell was on a horse at the training center at Discovery Park and while leaning down to pick up a tarp, his horse got spooked. He was able to quickly jump off, but then lost his balance and fell backwards, hitting his head hard on the ground.

   "When I arrived at the hospital, doctors told me my husband had suffered a massive skull fracture and was probably not going to make it," explains Margaret. "It was a nightmare. The neurosurgeons had to remove half of his skull bone, which they put into a freezer. They are preserving it until the swelling in his head goes down. When that happens, they will put the bone back into his head and hopefully, because it's been frozen, his body won't reject it."

   After a month at Harborview, Lindell is home and in physical therapy. He wears a helmet to protect his head while waiting for the swelling to decrease. His balance is wobbly and he has no memory of the accident or the six days following it.

   "What's incredible," comments Margaret, "is that he doesn't have any weakness on either side and possesses complete language functions. It's a miracle that he survived, but it's amazing that he didn't suffer any permanent damage."

   Lindell himself is optimistic and is giving one hundred percent to his recovery process. In time, he wants to return to work as a mounted officer, providing he gets doctor approval. He views his accident as a freak occurence.

   "Gary is not put off by what happened," explains Margaret. "He hopes to get back to doing what he loves best--interactin with and helping people on the streets."

   The Lindells both want the community to know how much they appreciated all the cards and flowers and sent to them this past month.

   "It meant so much for Gary and me to know that so many people cared, even people we had never met. The support was incredible and really made a difference," said Margaret.