CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- While on the job, some police officers experience the sort of heartbreaking loss that is almost impossible to explain.
Former Chesterfield County Police Officer Joe Diman still remembers the day, 16 years ago, when his partner was killed in the line of duty.
"We had been working together a few weeks," Diman said.
The two responded to a May 2006 domestic call at a home in Ettrick. There they encountered a man with a gun. The man opened fire.
Diman returned fire but was also shot five times.
The suspect died at the scene while Diman was airlifted to VCU Medical Center.
It was on that flight that he learned his partner, Officer Gary Buro, had been killed.
"That haunted me from the moment I learned he had passed," Diman said. "Anger, frustration, reactivity, PTSD. All these things that you don't necessarily want to become a part of who you are."
While investigations are underway, officers are often put on leave. But what happens to them during that time is no vacation.
Diman described his time off as a period of even more anxiety and distress amid scrutiny from the public, friends, colleagues, and the legal system.
For his physical wounds, he saw multiple doctors and physical therapists.
However, for the emotional and psychological struggles, he needed a different kind of help.
Adam Blevins is the operations director at Virginia LEAP or the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program.
The organization is largely a volunteer force of current and former law enforcement trained and certified by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF).
"We put a team together of trained and certified peers who have been through something similar, who understand what those individuals that we're serving may currently be feeling or may currently be going through. And we also add to that team some clinical mental health professionals," Blevins, a former Virginia State Trooper said. "Oftentimes, law enforcement professionals don't want to admit that they're struggling. Our mission, our goal is to help break down that stigma and let these folks know, it's okay to not be okay."
In 2006, Virginia LEAP didn't exist for Diman. The non-profit was formed in 2008 after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
Diman said he had great support from the department, peers, and family, but during his ongoing recovery, he eventually got connected with Virginia LEAP.
The experience was vital to his rehabilitation.
"It is three days of as much therapeutic healing as we can provide as possible," Blevins said.
Diman said he went three or four times to get that help.
Blevins said that on average, law enforcement officers will experience more than 800 traumatic events in a 20-year career.
While shootings can be a scarring experience, there are more events that can leave officers traumatized.
Some of these include officer-involved shootings, mass casualty events, severe car crashes, crimes against children or the elderly, or events involving a known victim or family member.
"It's impossible to experience all of these things time and time and time again and not have a negative effect on our emotions and our mental health," Blevins said.
As of March, Virginia LEAP has made more than 400 participant contacts providing more than 90 hours of services.
So far this year, five officers have died in the line of duty in Virginia.
After his death, Gary Buro's name was added to four others at the Chesterfield County Police Memorial.
His portrait also hangs in the halls of the police academy. In 2018, a road was named in his honor.
Diman retired in 2018, but even as he turned in the uniform, he wasn't done with the job.
These days, he's well known in the halls of the Chesterfield Police Academy for spending time with new recruits.
"I talk to the recruits, I teach at different situations to pass along my experience, to give them some benefit, but it's also good for me to talk it out."
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