Fairfield cop in scrape with roof rake warns of risks
Published 3:44 pm, Wednesday, February 2, 2011
A veteran Fairfield police lieutenant known for his wry wit and sense of humor poked fun at himself this week after nearly losing an ear in a freak accident at his home.
Lt. Jim Perez was laughing about it Tuesday, but his injuries were serious Jan. 27 when a snow rake fell from his roof and struck him in the head, leaving him dazed -- and nearly severing his left ear.
Doctors at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport reattached about one-quarter of his ear lobe with 11 stitches and told Perez he was lucky because it was a clean cut. If the rake had struck him elsewhere on the head or neck, it could have been disfiguring or even fatal, they said.
But this week, the jocular Perez, once the department's official spokesman, was dictating a tongue-in-cheek "report" of the incident.
"A callous and cold snow rake felled a Fairfield police officer," Perez recited. "It had charged into Perez' property in a bold daytime attack ..."
Turning serious, he said the accident demonstrates how dangerous the much-in-demand roof rakes can be and the full attention required to use them.
On Jan. 27, Perez began clearing snow on his own property as well as helping several neighbors, he said. After working nearly four hours on snow blanketing the ground, he decided it was time to attend to the snow piled high on his roof.
Working from the ground with a 16-foot roof rake, Perez had nearly finished the job when the rake got stuck in ice. It wouldn't move left, right, up or down, the lieutenant said.
Standing in knee-deep snow, he let go of the rake and looked down for a couple of seconds to reposition his feet. When he looked up, the rake had dislodged and was falling fast toward him.
With no time to move, Perez had the wherewithal to quickly turn his head to the right.
If he hadn't, "it would have sliced the entire front of my face," he said.
Hospital staff told him he was lucky the blade didn't strike him an inch-and-a-half higher or lower. Higher, he might have lost an eye; lower would have slashed his neck.
"We as police officers are always telling everyone to have a keen awareness of their environment and here, what looked to be a benign incident of routine housekeeping with a non-motorized tool resulted in a serious injury," Perez said.
He added, "This is a perfect example of how quickly things can change in an instant."
Once part of an FBI gang task force and a martial arts expert, Perez has exchanged gunfire with criminals and come away unscathed.
On leave since the accident, about half his stitches were removed Tuesday, and Perez said he was itching to get back to the police station in a few days.
Ironically, the type of roof rake Perez was using now is impossible to find at local hardware stores. With all the recent snow, they're sold out. The 19-year police veteran was no rookie using one; the accident marked the third time he'd used a roof rake this winter.
"You can never be too careful," said Perez. "People have to understand that just because it's not motorized doesn't mean it's not dangerous. These blades are extremely sharp, especially when it's falling from overhead and contact is unexpected."
And that's no joke, he said.