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Road to recovery for Deputy Robin Hopkins

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“I am thankful for all the blessing this has brought me, all the people I meet, I’m a pretty happy person, this has made life so much more than I ever knew,” said Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Robin Hopkins about being shot, almost fatally, this last October and the prolonged road to recovery she has endured. It has also been a gift for members of the Jewish community who have gotten to know her and who have embraced raising funds for her recovery.

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Rabbi Deborah Brin describes Hopkins, a member of Nahalat Shalom, as “Courageous, patient, optimistic machine, strong and clear.” In presenting a check to her on January 21, Brin said, “The money we raised came from the entire Jewish community — Hillel, the Jewish Academy, Congregation Albert, B’nai Israel, Nahalat Shalom, the JCC and Federation all were sponsors. We had a Hanukah event with master storytellers Renee Brachfeld and Mark Novak.” Brin said the community event collectively raised about $1600.

Back in October a man on a shooting rampage headed up Rio Grande in a squad car he had commandeered after shooting three Albuquerque police, vowing to “kill a cop.” He did not succeed. Those three police officers were hospitalized but with less life-threatening injuries than Hopkins would sustain. Hopkins heard the call from the Los Ranchos sub-station and gave chase and as the shooter came back down 4th Street she moved in to block his path. Instead, he fired and a shotgun blast tore through the driver’s side door of her Crown Victoria and hit her below the hip, below the armored vest she wore.

On a sunny day in January, now skillful with her walker, Hopkins navigated smoothly into the rabbi’s study for a chat. “I like to talk about what happened,” she said. “I got to talk with the paramedics recently and they said they didn’t know how I survived this, I had lost that much blood. The shot took off the top of my femoral bone and cut through the femoral artery. I lost close to two liters of blood, which is about half of all you’ve got to lose.”

As soon as she was shot, circumstances immediately conspired to work in her favor. According to Albuquerque Journal columnist Leslie Linthicum’s reconstruction of the event, while most of the police in pursuit had continued the pursuit down 4th Street, as Hopkins passed out her vehicle came to rest partly in the parking lot of the Bernalillo County Fire and Engine Station #30 there. An Albuquerque police sergeant who had been directing the chase had just then stopped in the parking lot and realized what had happened. He rushed to pull her out along with the firefighters and paramedic from the firehouse, and a BCSO officer who had been following directly behind her jumped out with a new tourniquet he had just been issued earlier that week. They had the tourniquet on her and had her in an ambulance within two minutes. Without this intervention, she would not have survived.

“I had a dozen or so surgeries at UNM to restore blood flow to the leg. When I was at UNM Hospital, it was rough for me. Then someone said, ‘Robin, your rabbi is here’ and I felt like, ‘My rabbi’s here?!! My God! Now everything’s going to be fine.’” That elicited a gleeful chuckle from Brin.

Hopkins’ enthusiasm and interest in Judaism is contagious. As they spoke in the rabbi’s study, Hopkins said right now she is reading “Living Judaism,” by Rabbi Wayne Dosick. Rabbi Brin joked that they’ll have to start a book list, ‘Books on Judaism recommended by Robin.”

Hopkins had just become a member of the congregation a few months before the shooting. She was attending Torah study with Rabbi Brin, monthly Wednesday night chanting meditations with Rabbi Shefa Gold, and reading books. “I was interested in Judaism and before I knew it I was enveloped in support. The rabbi was recommending books, and Irene Seff was showing me books.” Seff has been a librarian for Jewish books for many years.

Hopkins recalled telling Brin that her interest in Judaism had really started with her toddler, Bronson. She wanted him to have a religious education that was meaningful, and she had gotten to know a bit about Judaism through an Israeli friend of her husband’s.

Right now her life revolves around her healing. “I want to go back to work! I sit out on the bench and people go by and wave and say ‘Hi!’ It reminds me we are appreciated. I have two more surgeries, a bone graft is next.”

Hopkins, 44, who moved here from Arizona and has been 15 years on the job in New Mexico, is a former marine, a marathon runner, a wife and mother of two with a very active young toddler, and is also a reservist with the National Guard. She stressed repeatedly how important the support of friends and the community at large has meant in her recovery. It turns out this is not just a matter of well-wishing.

There have been a number of fundraisers held for her and for other public safety officers injured in the line of duty this last year. Hopkins was required by current regulations to go on Workman’s Comp, which meant taking a 30% pay cut, and to use her own sick leave while she is out. The time off could also not count towards retirement.

As her case brought a spotlight to this issue, Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston, the sheriff’s union, County Commissioner Maggie Stebbins, Albuquerque’s police union, and others have all called for changes to be made at the city and county level and especially in the state legislature this year so that public safety officers in New Mexico are not penalized when they are injured in the line of duty.

The village of Los Ranchos has set up an account for Deputy Robin Hopkins and her family. Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch in New Mexico simply by asking for the Los Ranchos Community Trust for Deputy Hopkins. 100% of all donations will be given to Deputy Hopkins and her family. The Los Ranchos bank branch can be contacted directly at 505-345-2693, and is located at 6603 4th St. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107.
Contributions may also be made via Rabbi Deborah Brin’s discretionary fund at Congregation Nahalat Shalom, clearly marked for Deputy Robin Hopkins.

This article first appeared in the New Mexico Link, Feb. 2014, front page. All text and photos © 2014 Diane J. Schmidt. All rights reserved. Please contact for reprint.

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