GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – For the first time, the federal agent who survived being ambushed outside a Clay County Publix
revealed Tuesday that the gun that nearly killed him was stolen from an unlocked car.
Monday night, Jacksonville police revealed that 52 guns have been stolen from unlocked cars in 2018. Only 42 days into the year, that works out to a rate of more than one gun stolen per day.
Agent Drew Stokes nearly died after being shot five times last September. Stokes spoke to a group of Clay High School students Tuesday morning. He said he is living proof of what can happen when gun owners make this mistake.
"This will help with the complacency there and the liability issues of leaving a firearm in an unlocked car," Stokes said. "Because, obviously, it can lead to tragedy."
That's not the only lesson he's shared. Stokes is also inspiring local students at Clay High School who are all enrolled in Clay High School's Academy of Criminal Justice and who want to pursue a career in criminal justice.
Hearing from someone like Stokes had an impact on students like Clay High School senior Malynn Nooney.
"For me, what stood out was the brotherhood between the law enforcement officers," Nooney said. "I liked the way he called them his family."
The main topic of discussion was what happened last September, when Stokes experienced the unthinkable.
A gunman ambushed him outside the Oakleaf Publix, singling him out for simply being an officer, according to police.
"If they want to go into this line of work, or join the military," Stokes said of the students. "we have to be truthful with them. We can't sugarcoat what happened to me. We can't sugarcoat what happened to Jesse Hartnett."
Hartnett is the Philadelphia officer who was sitting inside his police car when he was shot.
Hartnett was one of the many law enforcement officers around the country to offer support to Stokes.
Hearing firsthand what can happen in the line of duty is what appeared to have truly resonated with the students.
"It kind of puts it into perspective," said Clay High senior Garrett Weseman. "You only get one chance at life, and it can happen to anyone, anywhere."
With more insight into the law enforcement profession, the students said they now feel more ready to give it a try.
"For them to say, 'Okay, that's still what I want to do,' to me, I think that's genetic in someone," Stokes said. "This is the type of living they want to make and they want to go help."
Stokes could have his final surgery as early as next week. He's also working toward getting
medically cleared to fly again.
The Academy of Criminal Justice at Clay High School program started in 2002, with just 11 students. Today, there are over 200. The program is for students in grades 9-12. The program is partnered closely with the Clay County Sheriff's Office. Every month, they allow two or three students to partake in a month-long internship. They can work 45 hours per month and can learn about things including 911 dispatch.