John Barnes was only in his fourth month on the job as a school resource officer at the time of Friday’s mass shooting at Santa Fe ISD High School in Texas, where he and another officer confronted suspected gunman Dimitrios Pagourtzis, becoming heroes in the process. After being shot multiple times in the incident, it appears that Barnes might end up losing his arm, but those close to him believe he has a good chance of surviving, despite reportedly “flatlining” twice in the aftermath of the shooting.
Frank Flaherty, who is married to Barnes’ cousin, told People magazine that Barnes was the first officer to respond when Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High School, allegedly opened fire at an art classroom. The 49-year-old former Houston police officer was shot multiple times in his left and right arm when he opened the door and was reported to be in critical condition after he was taken to the University of Texas Medical Branch hospital in Galveston.
According to Flaherty, John Barnes came close to death twice after the Santa Fe shooting, as his heart stopped once while he was being transported to the hospital via helicopter, and once while he was being operated on. While he reportedly lost “massive” amounts of blood and had to be resuscitated in both of the aforementioned cases, Flaherty said that the worst appears to be over, with the “life-threatening part” now “looking better” for the hero police officer. He added that Barnes is now in “more stable” condition, albeit still heavily sedated at the time of People’s report.
People also interviewed Houston police captain Jim Dale, who said that there’s a good chance that Barnes will lose his right arm due to the severity of the wounds he suffered. He also commended his friend for being a hero in the Santa Fe school shooting, which claimed 10 lives and injured 13 others, but could have resulted in more casualties, as People suggested, had Barnes not confronted Pagourtzis.
“He knew that every second he waits, there is another loss of life so he went in there as quick as possible. Once you engage the suspect the suspect has now turned his attention to the officer.”
A report from the Houston Chronicle also stressed how Barnes actually confronted the suspected gunman and, as Houston Police Chaplain Monty Montgomery described it, “went to the fight” to save as many students as he could. The publication noted how this stood out in contrast to the sheriff’s deputy who reportedly waited outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February as a gunman killed 17 people on campus.
According to the Star-Telegram, John Barnes retired from the Houston Police Department in January, having spent over 23 years with the force in a variety of capacities. The day after his retirement, he joined the Santa Fe school district as a school resource officer. Former colleagues have encouraged anyone who wants to help the Barnes family with their medical expenses to contact the Tarrant County Credit Union and inquire about the Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association (TCLEA) Emergency Relief Fund.