Meet Daryl Elliott Green: the man who survived every police officer’s worst nightmare. He was ambushed and shot in the face and shoulder. But he was one of the lucky ones - he survived.
For his actions on that night — challenging the gunman, searching for colleagues and protecting local residents — Daryl was awarded the police service’s highest accolade for bravery, the Valour Award.
Recovery was slow. He had to endure 17 major medical procedures, first to remove the bullets, next a tracheotomy to breathe and years of surgery to reconstruct his face, whilst battling the throes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
With the unconditional support of his loving parents, family and close friends, Daryl fought back and regained a new style of leadership and outlook on life.
Having to rebuild his life, his face and his perspective, Daryl gained insights that only someone at the brink of a near death experience can really fathom.
He emerged stronger and wiser, armed with a burning desire to help and inspire others. And that’s what he does. Daryl is now a Lifeline Australia Ambassador and in-demand professional speaker. Here is his story.
Daryl, your story is incredible. Please walk us through that night, the moment that changed your life?
It was May 1, 2000 and I was working nightshift with good friend and colleague, Constable Sharnelle Cole.
We were catching up with our Sergeant, Christopher Mulhall, over a cup of coffee at a local service station in the early hours of the morning. The police radio crackled. We received information to attend a nearby address in relation to a job code ‘Threats against the person’.
A man alleged someone told him, about 14 hours earlier, that a man was going to shoot him and put him in a wheelchair.
All the men were neighbours, all residing in a small quiet cul-de-sac in what we regarded as a good neighbourhood. We immediately drove to the location to begin our investigation.
The actual call from the neighbour
Police Communications: How can I help you?
Paul: I’ve... I’ve got this guy living down the road, and I get the information tonight that he’s gonna do me in tomorrow, he’s coming round to do my kneecaps or put me in a wheelchair, so he reckons, kill my dog. He’s already covered me dog in spray paint.
Comms: OK, what type of weapons has he got there?
Paul: Semi-automatic .22, with a silencer, and he’s got loads and loads of ammo.
Sharnelle drove, I navigated and Chris followed us in his patrol vehicle. It was a dark cul-de-sac at 3am on a Monday, normally a very quiet shift.
The neighbour couldn’t tell Police Communications the house number for the suspect,, so unwittingly we drove past his house. We usually try to avoid doing that if possible, but this particular time, we had no choice.
The men had apparently had made a bet over a football match. The story was that one man had lost that bet on the weekend and threw down the $20 on a table and stormed out.
Later on said he come around and kneecap the man and then turn the gun on himself. We tried o obtain as much information as possible but it wasn’t a very clear conversation, there was a mass of unreliable information, chopping and changing.
We all found it quite bizarre to assess the situation and the threats being made. All the while there was a pink spray-painted dog running around the scene.
Constable Cole, Sergeant Mulhall and I decide to go back to a vehicle to access this situation together and make some further enquiries.
I sat in the middle of the back seat listening to Chris call for background information over his mobile. Sharnelle was on the police radio to a Communications officer asking about background history.
We had the interior light on in the car as our doors were open. I heard a strange ‘pat-pat-pat’ noise coming from the left-hand side, just outside the vehicle. I turned and looked out the car door, standing there was a man with a 22 calibre rifle pointed at my face.
The next thing I knew, my head was flung to the left side of my lap. My hands were around my face, I could feel the blood, teeth and bones in my hands. What I didn’t immediately know then was that I had just been shot at close range by a semi-automatic .22 calibre gun with a home-made silencer attached. The man had let loose on our vehicle, showering bullets toward all three of us.
I was shot first, in the face and the second round hit my shoulder. Sharnelle was shot multiple times and Chris was shot in his right arm and lower back.
I had been hit! Masses of warm blood flowed from my mouth; the primitive part of my brain that responds to life endangering threats responded to the situation in a millisecond.
I felt driven to exit the vehicle and go after the shooter I headed out the door that I’d been shot through. I took my gun from the holster and was ready to kill the gunman who I felt to my bones, committed a cowardly attack. I was enraged. Sharnelle was in the vehicle, shot several times and badly injured.
I shouted to Sharnelle, ‘Get help!’
The actual call to Police Communications
Sharnelle: Code one, code one. I’ve been shot! Help!
Police Comms: Officers down. Get a car there now.
Sharnelle: Help! Help!
Comms: Yes, what’s your location, please?
Sharnelle: I don’t know!
Comms: We’re getting the ambulance now.
Initially I shouted to the gunman to come back, I wanted revenge for his cheap shot. I shouted obscenities to him at the top of my voice. I soon realised Chris was missing, so I walked down the street and shouted his name half a-dozen times.
My eyes captured some movement, I levelled my firearm and saw a person, ‘Don’t shoot!’ they shouted. I quickly recognised it was a middle-aged woman in a white dressing gown!
I gave her a direction to move back to her house. But then … a dark silhouette appeared on the other side of the street. I swivelled, pointed my firearm and started to move toward the threat. The lady shouted again, ‘Don’t shoot, that’s my husband.’ I gave him a similar order to move back to his house, in a not so friendly voice.
I moved back to our patrol vehicle, where Sharnelle was. Leaning on the bonnet, holding my shattered jaw up with my hands, I try to reassure Sharnelle that it’s going to be alright.
I’m not sure if my appearance resembled my optimistic words, but I wanted to protect her and reassure her things were going to be okay; if the gunman returned re-loaded then I was ready. I was intent on killing him.
Chris, with two bullets in him, had thought we were being shot at from afar, and ran down the side of Moran’s house. Coming to a 6ft chain mail fence, he threw his revolver over the fence, somersaulted the fence, picked up his firearm and ran to the next street over. He found a house with a light on, entered and rang police communications.
Call from Sergeant Chris Mulhall to Police
Police Communications: Hello?
Chris: Yes, Sergeant Mulhall here.
Comms: Got police injured?
Chris: Yes, they shot my troops.
Comms: You’ve got two down?
Chris: I’m OK, at the house.
Comms: No, you stay put.
Though Chris didn’t want to stay in the house, he was ordered to whilst help arrived for us. The gunman was on the loose and no one knew where he was, but we did know he was armed and prepared to kill. More than prepared.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the bullet had gone into my face, blasted off five teeth, shattered the top part of my jaw and was embedded in the back of my tongue. I didn’t even realise there was another round embedded in my shoulder. I had been millimetres away from instant death.
I did not realise how much blood I had lost or how much was flowing from my face wound. I was running on pure adrenaline, I felt no pain, until later. I was losing an incredible amount of blood.
When help arrived, SeniorConstable Brett Price pulled me to the side of the vehicle, next to where Sharnelle had tried to exit the vehicle, but was so badly hurt, she collapsed in the gutter.
Brett pushed me to the ground to form a small protective arch of defence, in case the man returned guns blazing.
Despite a massive manhunt that night and in the weeks following, the gunman, 32-year old Nigel Parodi wasn’t found until three weeks later.
He had taken his own life in bushland not far from the crime scene.
It’s hard to understand why people do what they do, or how they arrive at attempted murder or murder.
Normal minds find it difficult to comprehend. It later emerged that Parodi, who was educated at the elite Brisbane Grammar School, and was the son of a highly-respected research scientist and biochemist, was likely the victim of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of a school counsellor, the notorious Kevin Lynch.
This is not to make excuses for the horror he inflicted on us, nor dissipate the severity of the heinous crime; it does however show the multifaceted complexities of how deep trauma can turn into an insidious parasitic demon of the mind.
What was the aftermath like?
The first two months after the shooting I was just in a haze. Numerous operations, bone and tissue transplants, titanium implants and facial reconstruction.
The physical pain was intense and the mental pain was excruciating. I realised how close I was to being killed, how fragile life can truly be. You can be here one minute and gone the next.
I played the game of ‘what ifs’ over and over in my head. If he had used a shotgun (which he was shown posing with in newspaper photographs) then I wouldn’t be here, if he shot me two inches higher up in my face the surgeon said I would have died at the scene.
My brain couldn’t comprehend that I was on top of the world in my life one minute and then shot at close range in the face the next.
The thoughts didn’t stop, the questions, the anger, and the seething pain of surgeries. I started to think that I was going mad. I had never experienced the throes of deep depression before, nor was I well informed about PTSD.
I took one of the bravest decisions in my life, I asked for help and sought an experienced psychiatrist. It was a relief to speak to somebody who understood this madness and could explain it to me. Someone to reassure me that these intense overwhelming feelings were in fact normal.
People often described me as a ghost through this period of my life. I had become evermore isolated and shut myself away from the world. Mum and Dad supported me through thick and thin, but I was having trouble dealing with me. It was like a flick of the switch.
The Daryl I once knew was not the Daryl that I even remotely resembled.
I tried desperately to get back to my former self but I just couldn’t, some thing was obstructing me. It was difficult for Mum and Dad to watch their once happy-go-lucky son morph into a sad, distressed shadow.
It was my colleague Sergeant Paul Trinder, whom I’d served with as a young Constable, who kindled the fire in me again. He thought I might have something to contribute to his recruit class so I agreed to do a presentation on the shooting.
I began with the actual audio of the shooting, an hour long talk and left them with four lessons to take away from my experience.
How valuable is support to recover from trauma?
It’s vital. I strongly encourage anyone who is going through a hard time, no matter what it is that is challenging you, to get some support. Not everyone in your world will understand what you’re going through, many won’t, but support really accelerates the recovery process. Even one or two people who understand is instrumental.
My Mum and Dad were my pillars of strength. My brother and close friends made a massive difference. Mum and Dad nursed me through surgeries, the legal minefield of WorkCover and criminal compensation, the psychological impact and societal pressures that I was dealing with.
My depressive thoughts and all the insensitive comments I received from work, I voiced to my parents. They listened and worked through each step alongside me, but they felt helpless in areas that were out of their control. Anyone who has children can understand how they felt, helpless and distressed, however they put on a brave face for me.
In serendipitous sequential timing, Inspector Dave Stevenson stepped in and became my lifeline, friend and a mentor at work. He went above and beyond his role of ‘boss’. I’ll never forget the first time I met him, it was six years after the shooting and though I was back at work and studying my degree, I was still battling the tormenting psychological demons that nagged at me daily.
My first impression of Dave was the sight I captured of him through a large pane of glass at the front of his office, he was sitting at his desk reading a document.
He was a big bear of a man, a presence that you couldn’t miss. I saw him look up, with no expression in his face, and we were locked in eye-to-eye contact.
I thought, ‘I’ve had some insensitive managers before, what am I in for with this big gorilla of a boss?’ How wrong I was. Little did I know at the time that I had just glimpsed the man with the finest interpersonal skills of anyone I have ever known and the man who would help me turn my life around.
Dave was someone I was meant to cross paths with – only someone of his calibre could reach through the barrier I had erected between myself and the outside world. He was literally the salvation to my workplace welfare and police career.
Dave took time, care and effort to listen to me, to others, and he never had a ‘too hard basket’. Slowly he helped me dismantle my protective guard and I was able to confide in him about my true feelings. I was a very tortured individual at this time, and I tried my utmost to hide my feelings and emotions from everyone at work.
I came to a breaking point in late 2006 when the pressures bearing down on me all became too much and an off-handed comment at work led me to crumble inside.
I felt I just could not carry on at work anymore. But the bridges Dave built with me drove me to go see him. I knew morale and the function ing of a work unit was a reflection of its manager. I could not just walk away from the work place, the police, my career and allow this to reflect poorly on Dave, as he had simply been the finest boss I have ever had.
I went to Dave and he saw I was highly distressed. I thought I had nothing to lose, so I told him all: the medical procedures, the mental anguish of dealing with the shooting, the legal battles, the stress of postgraduate studies, a feeling of being a burden to my parents, depression and the personal depth of worthlessness that I felt I had succumbed to.
We sat, talked and he shared a very personal story of a time in his life that caused him much distress and this helped build a strong understanding between us. He then suggested that I go home and get involved in something that would take my mind off the day’s events.
I did this. I went home and went for a long run. The important thing was, I turned up to work the next day; this was all due to Dave’s caring nature, incredible interpersonal skills and his unique ability to connect with people.
Some leadership lessons Dave taught me remain with me forever and I use them in my talks, workshops and programs.
One day I said to him, ‘Dave, you are the most respected leader I have ever met, what is your secret?’ He responded, ‘Greeny, it is really quite simple, I say please and thank you, and treat people how I would like to be treated’. This simple piece of advice is the most valuable leadership lesson I have ever learnt.
He also said ‘Never ask anyone you lead to do something you would not do yourself’.
That was Dave. The type of leader that, if he was lying in no-man’s land between trenches at Gallipoli in the First World War, regardless of the machine gunfire sweeping the ground around him, the troops would scramble over-the-top to rescue him. He was one in a million.
You now speak around the world on the power of resilience, courageous conversations, leadership and brave decisions. Can you share more about resilience?
Firstly let’s sum up what resilience is. Resilience is: the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — this can encompass a broad range of areas; from natural disasters, family and relationship problems, loss of a loved one, serious health problems, divorce, workplace and/or financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences, but sometimes it is a ‘long crawl back’, with quite a few slips along the way. The important thing is to keep going and not give up hope.
Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It can be learned and developed in anyone. Resilience doesn’t shelter us from life’s problems or makes us bulletproof, but it does help us bounce back from adversity and learn a new set of behaviours and processing methods so we can overcome the obstacles with greater clarity and personal strength.
In today’s world I believe that learning the keys to resilience and under standing how humans react and adapt to change is essential.
What would you say are the keys to resilience?
I’d like to share my top 7 keys to resilience in their basic form. Small simple ideas that we can easily implement to lead us through some rough terrain.
Resilience is returning to strength
Life throws us many challenges. Some events can knock us down into a pit of sadness, pain and despair. At these times you certainly don’t feel strong. That’s okay, it’s normal. Resilience is our ability to pick ourselves up, keep going, accept setbacks and move forward mentally and physically. In time, we do work our way out of the pit. When we overcome events that seem insurmountable, we return to strength, emerging wiser and more resilient than ever. This return isn’t an overnight success, it can be planned and work toward step-by-step.
Don’t focus on what’s unfair, focus on the future
Life is unfair, full stop. We can’t rewind time or undo unjust actions, deci sions or opinions. Even if we would like to, it’s impossible to go back in time. Harbouring bitterness and anger will only do you harm.
Acceptance is a golden quality. It allows you to move on and do the next most important thing: focusing on designing, creating and living a fantastic future. Acceptance may not always be easy, but it is worth it.
Accepting what happened, accepting yourself and looking forward, not backwards.
We all need help, whether it’s with our tax, failed plumbing or a computer glitch. Sometimes events occur and we just don’t understand our thoughts and feelings or know what to do.
This can be overwhelming and you may feel weak, inadequate, even pathetic. This is the precise moment to reach out for help.
Carefully choose your words, the person to help you and the time to reach out. In life, particularly in a time of crisis, reaching out for help is the smartest, most courageous and life changing thing you can do.
Tap others experience
Whatever your situation, someone else will have experienced what you’re going through. Be it divorce, death of someone close, illness or horrific violence or trauma. Finding someone with a similar story who has come out the other side can be powerful.
You soon discover that your feelings are normal. Learning from someone that has ‘been there, done that’ can be invaluable and open you up to new courses of action. If you don’t know someone personally, there are many great autobiographies and biographies available to help shed some light on someone who has had a similar journey to you and reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
A story, vision or smell can bring back dark demons from a terrible time in our life. Running or hiding from the demon provides temporary relief. Challenging the demon is daunting, but empowering. If you’ve been involved in a horrific motor vehicle accident, you might take an advanced driving course, or, if you’ve been shot like me, you might become a firearms instructor as I did.
It’s far from easy to conquer that demon but the blood, sweat and fear is worth every ounce of pain to re-establish control of your life. Having the courage to tackle something head-on is challenging at first but over time it brings out the demons and shadows that lurk in the dark and forces them into the light.
Adopt my G.R.I.T. formula (Goals, Roadmap, Innovate, Time)
We learn stories about peoples’ lives and say, ‘Thank God that’s not me.’ Well, a policeman’s worst nightmare – a firearm pointed at your face and being shot – happened to me
Out of the 400 recruits that I graduated with me, I was the one shot in the face. I was then to face countless David vs Goliath battles over many years.
Strangely enough, I ended up succeeding because I worked out there was a formula to what I was doing. It involved setting goals, acting on a roadmap, innovating when things were out of my control and appreciating that time and patience were critical to being gritty.
Best of all, following this formula lets us finish in triumph! Adopting this formula has been instrumental to my ability to set and achieve, what I once thought, were insurmountable goals.
What does the future hold for you now?
The future is bright and full of possibility. I have learned so much through this experience and love helping people on the four core areas I speak on: resilience, courageous conversations, leadership and brave decisions.
However these aren’t just topics I want to talk about, it’s about living and embodying them. When I entered the police first, I entered because I wanted to be of service to people, I really wanted to help. My passion for helping has not wavered, if anything it has only strengthened my resolve.
This is an edited text from Resilience: Building a Powerful Mindset. Find out more about Daryl at https://www.twiceshot.com/