El Cajon police Officer Tim McFarland admits he was scared.
His partner, Officer Jarred Slocum, had been shot in the head. He collapsed near a fence. He was exposed to further injury.
The wounded father and husband was a long way from home.
"I was like, 'No way. He has to go home tonight,'" McFarland, 26, said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with NBC 7 San Diego reporter Rory Devine. "'This is unacceptable ... I might get shot tonight, but that’s the chance I’m going to have to take.’”
On Sunday evening, the two officers were wrapped in the rampage of Kevin Collier. They arrived on scene to a call of suspicious circumstances: A man with a gun started a fire to an El Cajon house's front yard on the 1000 block of Prince Street.
Then the dispatcher quickly updated them: The suspect possibly shot a woman and child.
Lights on. Sirens on. Code 3.
Authorities learned later that Collier had killed his 14-month-old daughter, Rhilee, and mother-in-law, Beverli Rakov, 51.
When McFarland — a rookie officer in the final month of field training — and Slocum, 28, arrived on scene, they set up a perimeter. Then McFarland remembers hearing two gun shots.
A neighbor called to him that his partner had been wounded.
McFarland, standing near the house's garage, turned his head to Slocum, who was gripping a neck covered in red.
He waved his partner to come toward him. Slocum, still gripping his neck, ran before collapsing.
McFarland's training took over.
He put into practice a dummy drag exercise learned at the academy, setting his gun aside, wrapping his arms underneath his partner’s arms from behind and dragging him to safety before calling for paramedics and reporting an officer shot.
McFarland, who was a sophomore during the fatal 2001 Santana High shooting in Santee, began his police department career at age 19 as a vehicle maintenance aide. He then moved to communications operator and was promoted to dispatcher.
“Being a dispatcher definitely helped,” McFarland said. “I kind of knew what I needed to say and to make the shortest transmissions with the most information.”
After that came perhaps the most challenging part.
Gun drawn, standing over his partner, ready to pull if the shooter entered his sight, McFarland waited for help to arrive. He assured Slocum, whose wife is pregnant with their third child, that he would be fine.
He'd make it home. He'd make it home
“Even though it wasn't that long on the clock,” McFarland said, "it seemed like an eternity to me."
One of the first responders on scene was McFarland’s father, an El Cajon police captain. The two exchanged a thumbs up, a signal that McFarland was OK.
Now, it seems Slocum will be, too.
While still in critical condition, fellow officers say he’s sitting up in bed, speaking and smiling alongside his wife.
When McFarland visited the hospital room, she gave him an emotional hug. She thanked him for bringing Slocum back to his family.
As for his role, McFarland insists he is not a hero. He did his job as he was trained to do.
“If I have to do it again and save someone else, I'll do it," McFarland said. "Like I said, it's us going home. It's what we got to do.”