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May 2010
LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti: A story of courage

LAPD Officer Kristina Ripatti was just 'doing her job' when her life was irrevocably altered. Now, KTLA News sits down with Kristina to talk about her new challenge, and the remarkable tale of 'One Cop's Courage.'

Out on the street, out on the beat, day and night -- it's no secret that the life of an LAPD officer is risky business indeed.

On a June day in 2006, one LAPD officer's worst fears were realized when she was cut down by three bullets from an armed robber's .22 caliber revolver.

Kristina Ripatti was wrestling a robber to the ground out on the streets of LA when, unexpectedly, he produced a handgun. Today, almost four years later, Kristina remembers the moment that forever changed her life.

"He fires one round and of course it goes above my bullet proof vest into my armpit here," Kristina recalls, showing KTLA the entry point. "That's the round that ends up bouncing, goes through my lung, bounces off some ribs and then goes into what they call the T-2 vertebrae up here just below your neck. That's the round that paralyzed me."

Kristina's patrol partner Joe Meyer saved her life before the thug could take it away from her.

"The shooter continues to fire over me, standing over me, shooting down at me," Kristina remembers. "Fortunately the rounds are hitting my right arm. Joe comes up and he fires at the suspect and he hits him five times, killing him, keeping the guy from killing me."

In the weeks and months that followed, Kristina was forced to face the reality of her new life as a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.

"There were many moments where you're thinking like, 'How am I going to do this?'" Kristina says. "It gets really overwhelming in those initial days when you're like, 'This is going to be my life forever? I'm going to be in a wheelchair forever?'"

But with her customary grit and determination, Kristina no small part, she says, through the love of her husband Tim, also an LAPD officer.

"A lot of people that go through this injury, and their relationships end because of the injury," Kristina concedes. "And even though I had thoughts like, 'Why would he still want to be with me?' He never ever wavered, and he was always there for me."

Also a huge part of Kristina's support system: her daughter Jordan, now five, and her son Lucas, now two. Lucas was born two years after the shooting. He is living testimony to the notion that with the story of Kristina Ripatti, the normal rules don't apply.

"Sometimes I have a stubborn attitude," Kristina admits. "I don't want anything to limit me, and I don't want people to tell me 'You can't do that because you're in a wheelchair,' or 'because you're a girl. The quickest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't do it."

Now kristina is taking on a new challenge, training for the cross-country 'Race Across America.' In June Kristina will captain a team of four -- she'll be the only hand-cyclist -- that will attempt to cycle some 3,000 miles from California to Maryland in under nine days.

Kristina and her team's efforts in 'Race Across America' will raise funds for 'Operation Progress,' a charity that provides scholarships for inner-city youths who steer clear of gangs.

'Operation Progress' founder and fellow LAPD officer John Coughlin says the group's goal is to help good kids in bad areas.

"It's about rewarding good character in a very difficult situation," Coughlin tells KTLA News.

As for Kristina, she's too busy living her life as a wife, mother, and fundraiser to think about being a hero. But her own experience, and the road she's travelled, has taught her that anything is possible.

"You can overcome anything," Kristina says. "Nothing is too tough if you put your mind to it, and through dedication, hard work, and commitment you can accomplish anything."

Ripatti is truly an inspiration, and a tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit.

To help Kristina and her teammates on their journey for 'Race Across America' and their charity 'Operation Progress,' just click on to for details.



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