By: Karlie Harris
Some students may know Tim Graham as Glenelg’s janitorial manager, while others recognize him as their JV softball coach.
But it’s the scar on his hip that tells a different story.
In 2013, Graham, at the time a police officer for 15 years, responded to a breaking and entering call in Southeast, DC. It would be one of the final calls he would take as a member of the Metropolitan Police Department.
As a student at Liberty High School in Sykesville, MD, Graham had no idea of his career path when he graduated in 1989. Not too long after the stressful decision making process, he attended Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO and studied criminal justice to be a police officer.
Some families do not necessarily encourage their loved ones to join the police force, or any military force for that matter. Graham said his parents supported him regardless.
But that didn’t take away their fear of him getting hurt…
That night in 2013, Graham and two other officers went to an apartment complex where a call was made of an intruder in the building. One of the officers went around the back in case the perpetrator tried to take off running.
The apartment complex loomed large in front of Graham and the other officer. The front door was jarred, allowing them access to the inside. One of the officers checked the other rooms, while Graham entered the living room. In the vacant apartment (the previous owners had been evicted) there was a couch flipped over, along with a table and other tampered items.
“I heard a noise,” Graham said, “so I went to turn around to see if everything was okay with my buddy. I looked to my right hand side and the guy stood up from behind the fallen couch and started shooting. He fired four total shots and the fourth hit me right underneath my bulletproof vest in my hip. It grazed me and spun me down … I spun into the wall so I could get away from him. My buddy came back and the other from around the back came and began shooting at the guy.
The man was shot three times by the other officer, and Graham delivered the final shot.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “Being a police officer is just like being a walking target. You think you’re prepared until you actually experience it.”
Graham recalls the bullet wound burning. Though in shock, he relied on his training, and adrenaline, to save his own life.
The physical part of the job was not the biggest focus, however.
“Training and mentally preparing yourself to go out there and protect people is vital,” Graham said. “Without the mental preparation, what are you, as a police officer doing to protect people effectively? Not very much.”
Graham went into the police field aware of this, but his initial motivation for the dangerous career ironically was the reason he decided “it just wasn’t there for me anymore.”
The impact of the single bullet to the hip, from a gun held by a reckless criminal, initially belittled his courage, but it wasn’t long before Graham found the strength to continue working as an officer. But by 2014, Graham knew he needed to do something less … dangerous.
Enter Glenelg High School.
Since starting in 2017, Graham has been an integral part of the functionality of the school. From being the first to arrive to performing daily operations, Graham is, in effect, the backbone of the building.
Graham has also made an impact on his coworkers, who laud him for his engaging persona, work ethic, and desire to help.
“Mr. Graham provides a spark of fun to my day with his smile, laugh and jokes (that aren’t really funny),” said art teacher Greg English humorously. “He’s always willing to drop whatever he’s doing to lend a hand or solve a problem. And I love the eyes he had custom designed for his golf cart.”
Career and Technical Education teacher Ray Gerstner agrees.
“Mr. Graham is a big teddy bear, even though some people may think he is big and scary on first meeting. He will do whatever is necessary for all the students and values dedication. He prioritizes the little things and if someone is not available to do something at school, he doesn’t hesitate to jump in and help.”
It is a selflessness that has not changed from his time as an officer to his work at Glenelg.
“I appreciate being here, interacting with staff and students” Graham said. “It’s been a good journey, for sure. Who knows where I would be if that one incident in my past didn’t happen. But it’s gotten me here, and it’s been a blessing in disguise.”