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'I can die right here.' 3 Texas officers recall surviving August 2020 shooting

All three officers, as well as the suspect, survived the incident. A criminal case is still pending.

CEDAR PARK, Texas — Two years ago this summer, after responding to a call from a mother about her potentially dangerous and mentally distraught son, three Cedar Park police officers confronted him as police say he opened fire on them.

They narrowly walked away alive.

Officers Nik Anderson, Jacqueline Quiles and Cris Hester were left to recover from gunshot wounds in August 2020 after a gunfight with 26-year-old Joseph Taylor, who was not injured and who led authorities on a more than 16-hour-standoff.

Quiles and Hester have since returned to patrol duty, but Anderson, who was shot in the arm, has undergone four surgeries in the past 20 months and it is unclear if he will ever return to the streets.

RELATED: 'Our folks are trained well': Interim Cedar Park police chief discusses standoff that ended peacefully

Taylor remains in the Williamson County Jail as courts determine his competency to stand trial. His mother said that she had worked to get him mental health treatment in the months leading up to the shooting but that agency after agency told her that they could not help her son if he was not willing to receive help. She said she did not want to discuss the events of that day because of her son’s pending case but believes he was suffering a mental breakdown.

Pasha Taylor told KVUE recently that although she wishes the officers would have been able to negotiate with her son, “they didn’t know what was going on inside. I have to put myself in their shoes.”

The officers recently shared their life-or-death account with the KVUE Defenders, revealing how they barely escaped a worse outcome. They say they also want to highlight the often difficult and split-second decision officers must make when answering calls for help.

What happened that day

The three officers arrived at the house on Natalie Cove on Aug. 16, 2020, a Sunday afternoon, minutes after Pasha Taylor called 911.

Cedar Park officials will not release an audio recording of the call because of the pending case, but the officers said they were first told that Joseph Taylor may have access to a gun and that his mother and two younger siblings were hiding in a bedroom.

The officers said that once they got to the house, a sectional sofa was used to barricade the front door and that they received information that Taylor was trying to break into the bedroom. They said they acted, rather than waiting for a SWAT team, because they believed that Taylor’s mother and siblings could be at immediate risk.

“We could hear movement upstairs so we started to go up those stairs,” Quiles said.

RELATED: Moments before Cedar Park shooting, mother called 911 to report son was stealing her car, affidavit says

“As we are going up the stairs, we are announcing who we are, you know – ‘Cedar Park police!’ – calling out so there is no confusion as to who is actually coming in,” Anderson said.

The three officers made their way to a bedroom where Taylor was with his mother and siblings.

“He started shooting through the door, and I took the first round in the shoulder, fell back against her, landed on top of her, and she started crawling down the steps, and Cris returned fire, trying to give us some kind of cover,” Anderson said. “It felt like at that moment, like somebody hit you with a baseball bat just really, really hard, just knocking you backwards.”

“I realized I needed to give him some cover,” Quiles said. “So then as I stand up to give him cover, that’s when I got hit.”

The round struck Officer Quiles’ bulletproof vest, grazing her side. The former Austin medic first feared her condition was far worse.

RELATED: Cedar Park shooting suspect goes live on Facebook while barricaded inside home

“I felt like I was having trouble breathing, so in my head, I was like, ‘I’m having a collapsed lung,’ is what I am thinking in my head,’” she said.

Officer Anderson – a father of three young children – thought of his family as he crawled to a bedroom and took cover.

“As I am laying on my back, I’ve got my rifle up to try to protect myself in the room in case he comes in while simultaneously trying to get a tourniquet on my arm. Because at that point, I didn’t realize how bad my arm was,” Anderson said.

As the rounds continued, Officers Quiles and Hester knew they had to somehow get out.

“So I laid on my back as flat as I could and went down the stairs on my back, and you could see the bullets over my head as I’m going down,” Quiles said.

One of those bullets grazed Officer Hester’s head. Like Officer Quiles, he didn’t know the severity of the wound.

“Getting hit in the head, you know, just hearing stories of other people getting shot in the head and still not realizing how bad but still passing away,” Hester said. “I felt the blood coming down my face, and it really hit me. That I can die right here.”

Once the officers were out of the house – they saw their patrol cars had also been sprayed by gunfire – and they feared for Anderson, still unaccounted for.

“I knew with me being hurt, I only had limited time and I would end up being more of an issue than help. So once I heard him not shooting anymore, and it sounded like he was a ways away, I started creeping my way out of the room and down the steps,” Anderson said.

Shooting aftermath

Anderson said he ran out of the house when the gunfire subsided.

For the next more than 16 hours, police negotiators tried to persuade Taylor to release his mother and siblings and surrender. He did so the next morning. Taylor is charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer in the shooting and kidnapping.

RELATED: Suspect in Cedar Park shooting that injured 3 officers had history of family violence

That night, each of the officers was taken to the hospital. Hester and Quiles were treated and released. Anderson was discharged days later, but said he still struggles to hug his children or lift more than a gallon of milk. He said he is still reconciling the possibility that his injuries are permanent.

Cedar Park Police Chief Mike Harmon said an internal review of the incident is ongoing but that he has no concerns with how Anderson, Quiles and Hester responded that day.

“We are fortunate they were not more seriously hurt,” Harmon said. “This was a very close call for us.”

Tony Plohetski on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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