Yesterday in the cold rain, Daviess County Clerk David “Oz” Osborne began the process of moving the county’s eScan voting machines to polling locations for the last time. After 12 years as county clerk, Osborne will be retiring at the end of 2018.
“I have been in public service for 40 years,” Osborne said. “What the heck? Where has that time gone?”
Osborne said he knew at a young age that he wanted to serve. After his 3-year-old sister died in a car accident on the family’s Simpsonville, Ky. farm, Osborne, then 11, said he knew he wanted to be a police officer or firefighter. Fast forward to 1978, Osborne graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College and began working for the Owensboro-Daviess County Ambulance Service and serving with the Mosleyville and Utica volunteer fire departments.
Four years later, newly-elected Daviess County Sheriff John Bouvier hired Osborne as a deputy. Finally doing what he always dreamed, Osborne said he loved his job as a sheriff’s deputy. But in 1989, Osborne faced the worst case scenario for any law enforcement officer.
Then a K-9 officer in the patrol division, Osborne was delivering papers to a man whose stepchildren were contesting the will of their late mother.
“I was not there to arrest him,” Osborne said. “There was no argument of why are you doing this to me.”
Osborne said he was aware that the man was unarmed when he turned to return to his cruiser. But in the few seconds it took Osborne to reach his car, he said the man retrieved a pistol from the front seat of his own car and began shooting, striking Osborne five times.
According to Osborne, the man was within 8 ft. of him and struck him in the arm, which penetrated his abdomen, in the back, which hit his spinal cord, in his hip and through his heel. The man, who Osborne said was 6 ft. tall and around 250 lbs., jumped on top of him and pointed his five-shot revolver to Osborne’s forehead.
“The next sound I heard was ‘click,’” Osborne said. “He didn’t know he had already used all five bullets.”
Osborne said the man’s rage continued with pistol whipping — at least 25 blows to the face. Still able to move, Osborne pulled his service gun on the man, but in doing so accidentally released the magazine. When the man overpowered Osborne and drew this gun to the officer’s forehead, it again did not shoot.
Ready to flee the scene, Osborne said the suspect took the keys to Osborne’s cruiser and his portable radio, wadded the papers he had served and shoved them in Osborne’s mouth, before driving over his body as the suspect left the scene.
Once taken to the hospital, Osborne said doctors told him he was paralyzed, he would be confined to a wheelchair the rest of his life, have no control over his bowels or bladder and he would not be able to have children. After eight weeks in the hospital and eight weeks in rehabilitation, Osborne said he began to regain feeling in his right foot.
“I was in a wheelchair for six months,” Osborne said. “But then I began to walk again with crutches, then two canes and then one cane.”
Although able to walk, Osborne was left disabled — his left leg functions, but has no feeling in it and his right leg does not function and requires a brace, but still has feeling.
After six months, Osborne was back at the sheriff’s office. He was eventually promoted to captain and then newly-elected Sheriff Keith Cain made Osborne his Chief Deputy.
At age 45, Osborne was the second law enforcement officer with a disability to go through the FBI Academy and complete the physical.
“It was the highlight of my career,” Osborne said.
Osborne’s goal was to run for sheriff, but he did not want to run against Sheriff Cain. When former County Clerk Mike Libbs wanted to retire in 2006, he approached Osborne and suggested Osborne run for the office.
Elected as county clerk, Osborne has made significant changes during his three terms, including restorative work in the records room, increasing mail renewals, remodeling the clerk’s office and mainstreaming many processes.
“My entire career I have had the opportunity to work with fantastic people,” Osborne said. “They are the people that work with me, not for me.”
Chief Deputy Clerk Richard House has been serving under Osborne the last 12 years. House said he has learned a lot from Osborne, including how to manage stress. House said he is grateful for the three terms he has worked with Osborne.
“Oz has a different perspective about life,” House said. “He faced death and it changed him.”
Osborne said that, while he obviously wishes he had not been shot, he wouldn’t change anything about his life.
“When somebody tries to kill you and you come that close to death, it changes your perspective on life,” Osborne said. “It was a defining moment in my life, but it has not defined my life.”
Because of his successful career and the trauma he overcame, Osborne said he has had opportunities to speak across the country to other law enforcement offices, civic and church groups.
Recently Osborne was able to connect with Owensboro Police Department office Zach Morris who was shot in the line of duty. Morris is the first officer in Daviess County that has been shot since Osborne in 1989. Osborne said the two even had the same abdominal surgery.
“You are in a unique fraternity if you have been shot and survived it,” Osborne said of his conversation with Morris.
Osborne said he is ready for retirement, quoting General George S. Patton, “All glory is fleeting.”
“I came in saying ‘no more than three terms,’” Osborne said. “After 12 years, people need a change. The need a refreshment.”