Federal agent shares story to inspire students

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 2/14/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A federal agent who was shot five times last year is now sharing his story with students.

Aviation Enforcement Agent Anthony “Drew” Stokes spoke to students in the Clay …

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Federal agent shares story to inspire students

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A federal agent who was shot five times last year is now sharing his story with students.

Aviation Enforcement Agent Anthony “Drew” Stokes spoke to students in the Clay High School Academy of Criminal Justice on Feb. 13 about the day last September when he was the target of a random ambush that ultimately placed him in a coma for weeks.

Clay High is only one stop on Stokes’ tour where he plans to share his story in an effort to inspire future law enforcers and work through his PTSD at the same time. According to Stokes, speaking to others about that fateful day is the best form of therapy he can get. Stokes begins the story by telling students about going to the grocery store.

On September 26, 2017 Stokes was heading back to his car with both hands full of groceries from the Oakleaf Publix when he heard someone yell, “I hate cops!” out the driver side window of a black SUV. Stokes immediately dropped his bags and reached for his holstered gun but before he could draw the weapon, a bullet entered his right side and broke ribs on its way to his liver before settling near his T12 vertebrae.

“That bullet almost killed me,” Stokes said to over 100 students who sat completely devoid of sound as all eyes were on him as he spoke.

A second bullet pierced his right buttock and tore his intestine, which later led to sepsis.

“That bullet almost killed me too and the sepsis that followed tried hard as well,” Stokes said.

A third bullet entered Stokes’ right hip and stopped there. A fourth bullet shattered his left hip and passed out the back of his right leg. The fifth bullet passed through his left forearm. Three of these five bullets remain with Stokes today, a constant reminder of the day his life could have ended but more importantly, a reminder that he was still alive.

The final bullet is the bullet that killed Stokes’ attempted-assailant, 18-year-old Thomas Jacob Lewis IV, who attempted to drive away after the drive-by shooting but chose to end his life when he couldn’t escape.

Stokes said it could have been any cop that Lewis shot that day but he was glad it was him.

“He got me that day and personally, I’m glad he did, because I made it through it,” Stokes said. “I would take five bullets for my brothers any day of the week and if I can take it instead of them, I would do it again.”

Lewis, who was peddling drugs, had a warrant issued for his arrest the morning of Sept. 26. When Lewis found out about the warrant, he called his girlfriend and told her he was going to kill another drug dealer or a cop that day. Shortly after that call, he tweeted, “It’s payback time.”

Lewis didn’t find the drug dealer he was searching for but he found Stokes that day.

In the following months, Stokes explained to the students that he lost all of his blood in the Orange Park Medical Center twice. Volunteers from local, regional and nationwide agencies donated blood to help keep him alive. Although he remained in a coma for weeks, Stokes received a call from Governor Rick Scott and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He said it was easy for him to decide what was next.

“There was never a doubt that I was coming back [to work],” Stokes said. “This is what I’m meant to do.”

When Stokes opened up the floor for student questions, most students asked what it was like getting shot, what it was like waking up from a coma and more. Some students asked if Stokes thought he was going to die that day. He told multiple people on Sept. 26 that he was not going to die. Every student, though, left that cafeteria inspired that Stokes, despite all odds, despite facing death, persevered and stands today to not only tell the story, but pick up right where he left off.

“It makes me happy and keeps me inspired that there are people out there strong enough to do that,” said Alyssa Pruitt, a Criminal Justice sophomore who hasn’t decided if she wants to be a lawyer or an officer. “He’s not going to let something so big effect his life, he’s not going to let the other person win and that’s just incredible to hear.”

Cameron Mclain, a senior, said Stokes is fearless and strong.

“Today showed me that we can always move forward,” Mclain said. “It takes strength and I’m sure it’s scary but look at Stokes. He did it and that’s an inspiration.”

When Stokes isn’t covering radar for an airplane crew tasked with intercepting drug-running planes or boats, or investigating the next international waters drug bust that might lead to a 13,000 pound cocaine confiscation, he’ll be at schools like Clay High, talking to students like those of the criminal justice academy, telling his story.

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