On June 3, 2006, around 10:30 p.m., Los Angeles Police Department Southwest Area Officer Kristina Ripatti and her partner, Officer Joe Meyer, were patrolling in the Exposition Park area of South Los Angeles. A man ran directly in front of their police car forcing the officers to slow their vehicle to avoid hitting him. Ripatti and Meyer exited their vehicle and followed the suspect, 52-year-old James Fenton McNeal.
As McNeal reached the front porch of a nearby residence he pointed a gun at Ripatti and fired. Officer Ripatti was struck twice by the gunfire, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. Officer Meyer returned fire killing McNeal.
Unknown to the officers McNeal had just committed a robbery at a nearby gas station. McNeal, a career criminal, had served multiple prison terms for multiple violent crimes, including armed robbery and murder.
Kristina Ripatti is married to LAPD Police Officer Tim Pearce, a police academy classmate and former partner of Officer Ripatti. He was one of the officers who responded to Ripatti's help call and arrived at the shooting scene, as his wife lay critically wounded.
Reporter Brent Hopkins and photographer Hans Gutknecht spent over a year documenting Kristina Ripatti and husband Tim Pearce as they put their lives back together after the tragic shooting that left her in a wheelchair.