Only on 2: Santa Fe officer discusses shooting, reunites with life flight crew that saved his life

HOUSTON – Life Flight crew members said after the shooting at Santa Fe High School, it seemed there was almost no way school resource officer, John Barnes, could live.

One year after the tragedy, he sat down with KPRC health reporter Haley Hernandez, the only TV reporter who was there to reunite the officer with the LifeFlight crew that helped save his life.

It was a beautiful sunny day on the Memorial Hermann helipad when we scheduled the reunion. An equally cheerful Officer Barnes brought T-shirts honoring officers killed in 2018 as gifts for the Life Flight crew. Shortly after introducing himself, his smile faded into crying as he explained why the T-shirts were significant.

"I wanted to give you guys this shirt and tell you 'thank you' for keeping me off that list," Barnes said emotionally.

The crew knew he was close to being one of the police officers killed in 2018, and they admit knowing he was an officer elevated the emotions of that day.

"The police officers are really important to us," John Cornell with LifeFlight said. "He was the guy in there trying to make a difference for the people that day and that ramps everything up for us."

Barnes said he was ready to rush toward gunshots.

"We run to the scene, you know? Look, this is not the first time I heard gunfire and ran toward it and every police officer can tell you the same thing. Every one. I'm talking about police officers who've been on for decades who worked hard areas and stuff."

Even though he said he was ready, he thinks now, the shooter was too

"So, when I came up to the corner, he posted up on the corner, I was trying to just get my pistol around the corner enough to fire around at him. I thought he was in the middle of the hallway and he had changed positions and he wasn't. He was in one the art hall rooms, posted up on a doorframe waiting for me to come around."

That's when he took a blow to the arm that severed an artery.

"As soon as my arm, it was about a second or two seconds, from the time I got my pistol up to the time I got hit. So I never saw him, I don't know if my head came around the corner or not I don't remember seeing him at all, so as soon as I get hit your immediate reaction is to back up." Barnes remembered. "You know I got back on the radio, dropped an assist and then you know you've heard the rest of it. Gary put the tourniquet on me and I waited for the cavalry."

While he waited, bleeding out, he knew it would take a LifeFlight helicopter to survive.

"I said get me on the *** helicopter or I'm gonna die."

Almost one year later, as he reunited with the LifeFlight crew that listened to that demand, they talked about the blood transfusions, eight surgeries, followed by physical therapy, setbacks with infections and more surgeries scheduled for Barnes.

Now, they all know that somehow when everything seemed to go so wrong, some things also had to go right to lead him here today.

Barnes’s next operation is in August. Until then, he is spending a lot of his time on (a well-deserved) vacation.


Before Barnes was inside LifeFlight, fellow Resource Officer Gary Forward tied a tourniquet on his arm. At the time, it was a new requirement for officers to have them on hand.

Haley: I heard that you were not in favor of carrying the tourniquet, is that right?

Officer Barnes: "No, that's absolutely right, I'm kind of hard-headed at times and it's probably one of the things that kept me alive. I've been a police officer for a couple of decades, and I'm like 'dude I never needed one of those, I've been through lots of stuff, why would I need to carry that on my belt?'" he originally protested. "The chief had the foresight, both of them did thank God for that because it saved my life."

After the horror, he made it into LifeFlight where he got the blood he desperately needed.

Haley: Are you happy about what the future of your physical health looks like?

Officer Barnes: "Oh yeah, absolutely, you know I'll probably will always have issues with my arm. The truth of it is I probably won't be able to go back in police work, and that's fine. You know I'm thankful that this happened later in my career, I'm happy with what I've got now."

Haley: It was said that the way you kind of aggressively charged at the shooter. You were the last person who was shot. So, people give you credit for saving other lives. 

Officer Barnes: "What I'll say is this, I'm no different than hundreds of thousands of other police officers that do this kind of stuff all the time… I'm thankful that I get to tell the story because I want people to understand this is what police officers do."