Officer Daily steadfast in complicated, often painful healing process, sets sights on one major goal: getting back on patrol at Southeast

Tom Kennedy, Editor
Officer John Daily speaks at the August general membership meeting. Photo by Gary Hicks

Officer John Daily has every right to be discouraged and never wanting to return to duty patrolling areas like the traditionally crime-ridden Telephone Road on the southeast side.

We learn, however, that that is not the intention of the individual who has dedicated his career to a life in Houston Blue.

He will return!

“Police work is where I plan to stay,” Daily told the Badge & Gun. “There’s nothing like this job.

Credit to Reid

“I love pursuing criminals. I believe in justice. I believe that if you do wrong, you need to be brought to justice and punished.”

It’s no secret that one of those Houston wrong-doers he would love to see brought to justice is the individual whose drunken driving resulted in a fiery Christmas Eve crash on Telephone Road.

Daily was only 13 months after his graduation from the HPD Academy in Class No. 232 when he was riding with partner Alonzo Reid. They found themselves upside down in their patrol car after the fiery crash.

The perpetrator was identified but is believed to have left the country. He fled from the scene as the fire spread throughout the patrol car, causing second- and third-degree burns on Officer Daily’s face, stomach, arms and legs. Reid experienced less severe leg burns.

Daily credited his fellow academy class member with quick-thinking reactions in a time of life-threatening crisis.

The injured officer discussed Reid’s quick actions.

“He’s laid back. Reserved. He’s normally a good decision-maker more than 90 percent of the time. He doesn’t jump the gun. It’s kinda the reason I chose him as a partner. I’m hyperactive when it comes to getting things done.

“I’m not laid back. He’s just calmer with his decision-making than I was or am. It made him a good partner as far as watching my back. He’s always looking at what we’re getting ourselves into and how to get through it. He always has a mind to get whatever task needs to be done without getting hurt, physically.”

In the fiery Christmas Eve crisis, Reid took charge. Daily recalled what happened.

“We were driving north on Telephone. We never saw it coming. Never saw anyone making a turn. It was all reactionary. We got hit, made contact with several other objects and ended up on our heads.

“We were checking on each other. He unbuckles, breaks the (window) glass and comes back to help me. Fire has already started. I’m not all the way out. I’m without any of my movement. He’s pulling me out.

“My legs were not completely pinned (inside). There was a structure on top of my legs, so I couldn’t help myself get out. He had to pull me out, pretty much all the way out. There were bystanders. One helped break the glass. But when it came to pulling me out, it was pretty much him.

“He was yelling, trying to find me. He thought I hadn’t really made it out of the fire. The fire was starting to grow. The whole time he was yelling at me, ‘Are you all right?’

“I yelled ‘YES’ – but I wasn’t.

“He didn’t even realize he was burned in the leg until after the fact.”

Long Road Ahead

The blue brotherhood (sisters included) stepped up to the plate, as always expected and experienced in the Houston Police Department.

Officers Conner Davidson and Russell Bounds took Daily to the hospital, while Officer Ellie Gonzalez accompanied Reid to the hospital in an ambulance.

It was obvious Officer Daily was suffering from the greater amount of burns.

Doctors treated Reid for burns to the leg. Other doctors decided on a medically induced coma for Daily, who now says the pain was excruciating, unbearable.

To date, Daily has experienced 32 surgeries. He said the prospectus ahead is “three more.”

“Right now, I feel like I have a very long road ahead of me for recovery. It’s an unknown. I never really processed the idea of being burned. I’ve thought about being shot or breaking a leg or something while going over a fence. But not about being burned.

“They (the burns) are over such a large portion of my body. I had to learn how to walk, chew and to be able to control learning how to chew.

“There’s dealing with the scars on my body and on my face. It’s hard to get used to, to me. They’re pretty gross, pretty big. They stick out a lot. It’s tough dealing with those.

“We’ll see how it goes. Fortunately, I have a lot of classmates from the academy check up on me. They are nothing but help. Nothing but support. They help me move on from this situation.

“The investigators are continually trying to pursue the suspect, who is not in custody. I try not to remember too much about him.”

He focuses on the bright spots. One stands out: “I’m back to eating anything I want now.” He also pointed out that he does “self-therapy” while at home.

Daily has what we could understate as “an awesome support group.” His parents reside in the San Francisco Bay area in California. His mother and daddy take turns commuting to Houston to be with their son. His dad is in sales, while his mom serves as “a job coach for the mentally disabled.” Daily is proud to say he’s a Houston native. The family moved to California when the twins were very young in order for Owen Daily to undertake a new job opportunity.

Of course, his twin brother Michael, a fellow HPD officer, continues his patrol duties. Michael has been the stalwart, the bedrock of support and morale-boosting you expect from a twin brother, especially one who shares the same life calling.

But something new has been added. Daily said he and his girlfriend are in the process of moving into an apartment.

What lies ahead? Plastic surgery, maybe?

“Not really,” Daily replied to the possible plastic surgery option. “With burnt skin you don’t have much skin to work with. There are no other layers. That’s the hard part. The scars might get smaller but they’re still going to be there, basically. They might try to do laser surgery to make them smaller, but they’re not necessarily going to go away.”

The scars are on the right side of his face, up and down his arms and legs. He takes methadone for pain.

“I’ve been on that ever since day one of the accident to try and help with the pain. It’s devastating emotionally to deal with the pain. But right now, I’m getting that support.”

Daily has goals, both near-term and long-term.

“I want to get better at walking and eventually get back to running. And I’m getting off the painkillers about Christmas time or toward the end of the year.

“I want to say to my brothers and sisters: Thank you for all the support. Please continue to fight drunk driving.”

As for his long-term goal, his partner, Officer Alonzo Reid, weighed in. Reid has been on light duty since the accident.

“We’ll be headed back to patrol soon,” his partner said. “That’s the plan when he decides it’s time to come back.”