Elway brings holiday cheer to one fan during a most di∞cult journey
David Daugherty, who nearly died after being shot, gets to see his favorite team play at K.C.
kansas city, mo.» David Daugherty’s life went into slow motion as his windshield exploded and bullets pelted the frame of his truck as he traveled along eastbound Interstate 70 near Limon.
It was just after midnight Aug. 5 and Daugherty, a former Army paratrooper and longtime Denver Broncos fan from Kansas, just wanted to get home after a week’s vacation in the mountains. Instead, his trip to Colorado was extended by two months as he was left clinging for life in, what is so far believed to be, a random act of violence from a car that pulled up alongside him and opened fire.
One bullet hit Daugherty’s spinal cord, immediately paralyzing him from the waist down. It still remains lodged in his back. Another tore through his left triceps and ripped it off the bone. Another
collapsed his left lung. Another narrowly missed his face before piercing the passenger headrest, he said, and a couple of others ricocheted by the driver-side mirror and into the dashboard, narrowly missing him.
Daugherty, 51, said he got a view of the perpetrators, but his visual offered only the basics: the make and color of the car, the number of passengers, their skin color and hair color. His memory of those few seconds of trauma, however, are still incredibly vivid.
He remembers grasping the steering wheel as his truck tumbled across the center median and landed in a ditch on westbound I-70. He remembers turning on his hazard lights to create a glow from the interstate, with the hope that a passing truck driver would see him. He remembers calling 911 and providing every detail imaginable: his location, the severity of his injuries, the description of the car involved, his next of kin, his blood type, his Social Security number, his address, even the pass code to his phone.
“I think a lot of it was just kind of an auto-response because of all the years I spent in the Army,” said Daugherty, who served 24 years. “I could hear the 911 operator saying: ‘David, are you still there? David, are you still there?’ I know I’m losing lots of blood and my vision is getting very blurry, but at this point I’m essentially getting myself right with God because that’s where I’m headed next.”
Then it all started to fade, as blood poured from his body and his consciousness went in and out. Deputies arrived and immediately applied a chest-wound kit and tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Daugherty was transported by helicopter to The Medical Center of Aurora, where emergency surgeries repaired his wounds and ultimately saved his life.
After about a week, Daugherty was transferred to Englewood’s Craig Hospital, which specializes in spinal cord injuries, to spend two months rehabilitating and beginning a new life — without the use of his legs. His active hobbies of old had to be replaced. His house had to be modified to accommodate a wheelchair, and a new car with hand controls had to be made. Both were accomplished with the help of family, friends, coworkers and even donors he had never met, who contributed to his GoFundMe website.
News of the incident quickly got out, but Daugherty’s name and details of his horror and recovery were omitted. But they were shared with the Broncos and general manager John Elway, who worked behind the scenes to ensure that his life would change for the better again in November and once more on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
On Oct. 6, Daugherty completed the trip he tried to make in August and returned home. About a month later, on his first day back at work as a distributor support manager for Fairbank Scales, the company’s president, Rick Norden, pulled him into his office under the guise of simply wanting to catch up. Then the phone rang.
“On the other end I hear, ‘Hi, Dave. It’s John Elway,’ ” Daugherty said. “I’m playing along thinking this is maybe a joke, but I know what John Elway’s voice sounds like and it certainly sounds like John Elway. Two minutes into the conversation it dawns on me that this is John Elway. That was the coolest thing I think may have ever happened to me.”
The five-minute conversation started about Daugherty’s health, continued on about all the Sundays he spent watching Elway and ended with an invitation. Elway invited Daugherty and a friend to be his guests at Sunday’s Broncos-Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium.
About an hour before kickoff Sunday in Kansas City, Daugherty, wearing a navy Broncos hoodie and Elway wearing his usual navy suit, met and chatted in the tunnel of Arrowhead Stadium as rain poured down on the field.
“I was so nervous,” Daugherty said with a wide smile.
The meeting was brief but certainly welcome after a trying journey that still has many unanswered questions.
“The case is open at this point. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about will they ever catch these guys or thinking about my life really as it was before this incident, because I can’t really change yesterday at all,” Daugherty said. “For my own well-being, I just have to look beyond it and focus on today and tomorrow.
But his most recent yesterday is one he won’t want to forget.
David Daugherty, a Broncos fan, watches from the sideline before the game at Kansas City on Sunday.
Broncos fan David Daugherty meets with John Elway prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Daugherty was shot several times by a passerby while driving on Interstate 70 east of Denver on Aug. 5. John Leyba, The Denver Post