“It’s more uncomfortable to stand,” said Cedar Hill police officer Ann McSwain. “This leg after about three, four or five minutes lets me know I need to sit down.”
Officer McSwain describes her new normal after one man’s actions changed her life.
“I remember everything that day,” McSwain said.
On July 9, 2014, McSwain tried to arrest a man in a parking lot off Belt Line Road in Cedar Hill.
“[I] saw the suspect as she was pulling him up, as he was walking holding the bottle of gasoline. Of course, we didn’t know what it was at the time until he started yelling, 'I have gas,'" said witness Spencer Stroud.
McSwain and two other Cedar Hill police officers tackled 27-year-old Terrance Dunn and tried to arrest him.
McSwain said when she first encountered the suspect, she knew something wasn’t right.
“I just knew he was in a very desperate place,” McSwain said. “We’ve often mentioned that we’ll come across people who have that 1,000 yard stare, which is exactly what he had. He was looking off into the distance, he was looking at me, but almost looking through me. It didn’t matter that I was there or not.”
McSwain said she was on top of Dunn when he lit himself on fire.
“Just total disbelief,” McSwain said of her reaction. "That was not anything that I saw happening. I did not envision that at all. Initially when I saw the flames come up toward my face, I gasped and so, that fear immediately struck me that this was happening."
McSwain was severely burned and was airlifted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
“I was burned on both legs basically below the knee and above the ankle and my right arm just on the underside from here basically to my arm pit and then some superficial burns on my face,” McSwain said.
She underwent surgery to replace the burned skin.
“I’d always heard burns were the worst types of injuries. I had no idea, I had no idea,” McSwain said. “I was not prepared for how painful the burn itself would be and then the treatment of the burns."
McSwain wants to return to patrol, but it may take time.
Until then, she wants to volunteer to help others suffering from severe burns.
“The community makes me want to come back and do this job,” McSwain said. “The community’s outpouring of love and support has just been overwhelming; the humanity of humanity is amazing and it makes an act of, and I don’t know what caused this gentleman to do what he did - but the outpouring of love and support from the community has so dwarfed everything else. It has carried me through some dark nights when I was in the hospital by myself. It has given me strength and encouragement that I needed.”