Now-retired officer’s book traces a bitter, yet inspiring 24-year journey.
Laurie White served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from 1996 to 2020, when she retired as a sergeant. She survived a gunshot while attempting to execute a search warrant at the residence of an alleged sex offender in Kitimat, British Columbia. Her injuries were so severe that her right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
In 1998, Laurie White was an RCMP officer in Kitimat, B.C., just over two years with the force as a constable, when her life changed in an instant.
“I was standing under the carport and I was slightly to the right of the door and all the sudden I heard a loud pop,” said White, while at her mother’s house in Brockville.
While executing a search warrant, she was shot in the leg.
“There was a black hole in the door and I smelled gunpowder and that familiar smell, and I saw smoke coming from my shin,” White added. “That’s when I looked down and I realized I’d been shot. So it was really strange how all the senses kicked in before my actually brain realized what had happened.”
White was rushed to a local hospital, then flown to Vancouver for emergency surgery.
“When those arrangements are being made, you know that it’s serious, and I had felt my leg dangling.” White said. “I didn’t really know the extent of it.”
“When I was lying there in the hospital in Kitimat, one of my coworkers came in and said, ‘Laurie, do you have any dying declarations?’ And I was thinking, what is dying declarations? What does that mean? What does that phrase mean and I was patting my torso and wondering, ‘Was I shot somewhere else? Was I shot somewhere else and just wasn’t aware?’ I hadn’t realized it yet. Was I dying and no one was able to tell me?” White remembered.
After an eight-hour surgery, doctors couldn’t save her leg, and it was amputated just below the knee.
“I couldn’t look for many, many days. I had no interest in looking, I just couldn’t face the reality,” White said.
Enduring months of physiotherapy, she recovered wearing a prosthetic leg. Even returning to work back in Kitimat 10 months later.
“I did choose to go back to Kitimat. I really felt like I had a lot to prove,” White said. “I needed to see if I could resume my career and my duties and feel confident.”
“I felt if I could take away some of the external stressors, like a new community, and go back to a place where I had some familiar faces and knew my way around, then I would reduce some of my chances of failure and for me it was the exact right decision at that time,” White said.
While getting used to a prosthetic leg was sometimes a challenge, she accepted it, continuing to live an active lifestyle.
“It doesn’t hold me back. I skate, I exercise actively, I’m able to wear high heels,” White said, adding the RCMP was creative to help her adjust back to work life.
“There were lots of hurdles for sure, being a person with a disability, my situation was very ground-breaking in terms of being on duty, to accommodate and find positions once I was no longer able to do general duties (on patrol).”
White retired from the force in 2020, after a 24-year career, wanting one day to write a book about her ordeal out of her personal journals she’d kept along the way.
“Once I officially retired and had some time and some distance from the career itself, I really started to shape what I had been writing,” she said.
In August, ’10-33 An Officer Down Steps Back Up’ was released. A personal memoir that shares her physical, emotional and psychological struggles since 1998.
“It was really important to lend a different tone to the risks and the sacrifices that first responders make in the career choices that we’ve made,” White said.
The book has seen success, even hitting some bestseller lists.
“I think it’s touched a lot of, a wide range of people for a wide range of reasons,” White’s mother Norah said, proud of her daughter and surprised by the feedback from her story.
“Spouses of first responders, friends, people who are experiencing their own problems,” she said. “Somehow they identify with her story. Our whole family’s very proud of her.”
Encouraged and grateful for all the support, White is happy her story has touched so many.
“The feedback has been incredible, it’s been humbling, and it’s been really far-reaching,” she said. “I feel to me this book has helped me come full circle and it’s really gratifying for me to be able to do this interview here.”
“The response has been so overwhelming. I never expected this. I am so grateful for that.”