More than 500 members of the Prince George's County police department, their families and supporters raised more than $16,000 at a party Sunday to help buy a specially equipped van for Sgt. Paul Tucker, who was partially paralyzed while on duty in June.
Tucker, 41, a founding member of the county's emergency services team, was paralyzed from the waist down when he fell 18 feet from a ladder June 20 as he tried to reach an armed man who was threatening suicide. The man was taken into custody and sent for psychiatric observation.
Police spokeswoman Carol Landrum, who helped organize the event for the Fraternal Order of Police, said officers already had raised $14,000 before the party, bringing the total to more than $30,000.
The van, which includes hand controls and a wheelchair lift, will cost about $24,000, she said. Money not spent on the van will go into a trust fund to help pay college costs for Tucker's two sons.
Tucker, who broke two vertebrae in the fall and is in a body cast, has been hospitalized since the accident and was not able to attend the party.
Reached by telephone at the Washington Hospital Center, where he is undergoing therapy, he called the fund-raising effort "fantastic."
"It amazed me how many people turned out and how much they raised," he said. "It really makes you feel good to know that you've got that many friends out there. It's going to be easier to do my exercises, I'll tell you that."
Tucker's wife Shirley called the party "very overwhelming and added: "A lot of Paul's friends put a lot of work and effort into this. He is loved, there's no doubt about it."
Capt. Robert Phillips, Tucker's commanding officer, said that the outpouring of support "shows more than friendship, it shows respect."
"Sure, a lot of people here are Paul's friends -- he has so many of them -- but a lot don't know him," Phillips said. "They just know what kind of person he is, that he places himself on the line every day."
Sgt. Bill Spalding, who helped found the emergency services team with Tucker, said that the "tremendous" response to the fund-raising party "is not just for Paul. It's for every police officer who ever put on a gun and badge."
Sunday's event under bright skies at the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Upper Marlboro took on the look of a carnival, featuring an auction of a hockey stick autographed by members of the Washington Capitals, a 10-speed bicycle, and gift certificates to area restaurants.
County Executive Parris Glendening was on hand, as were Baltimore mayor and gubernatorial candidate William Donald Schaefer.
Said Phillips of the day's events: "We all felt helpless that night [when Tucker was injured], and this is one small way we can help him live the rest of his life."