Line of fire: Trooper survives 12 bullets, kill shot in gunfight with desperate fugitive
11/02/2017 1:50 pm PDT
The chase for an armed and very dangerous suspect quickly takes a turn when the Oregon State Police trooper tracking down the gunman goes from the hunter to the hunted.
The life and death minutes that follow would play out on police dashboard and body cameras.
The dragnet's out for a deranged gunman on the loose. But what police don't know is that he's now lying in wait for them. And a blazing shootout will leave one of them down and dying from a barrage of more than a dozen bullets.
Among the cops involved in the furious gun battle in Washington County, Oregon, are state trooper Nic Cederberg, police officer Joseph Twigg and sheriff's sergeant Jordan Weston.
It's December 25th, 2016, Christmas night. And Cederberg, Twigg and Weston wish they were home with their families like almost everyone else. The last thing any of them want tonight is trouble.
And Nic is looking forward to the next day, when he and wife Hayley, also a cop on Christmas duty, are going away on vacation.
But then around 1 a.m. everyone's plans suddenly change with an urgent bulletin from police dispatch.
"It was kind of winding down. I was getting ready to go off duty when I heard the radio come to life," said Officer Twigg.
A man has just murdered his estranged wife at their home and fled in a white Mitsubishi Galant.
"With the information that we had at that point, everything said that this guy is still armed, he's still dangerous," said Twigg.
And Sgt. Weston has a bad feeling about this night.
"My gut told me that we probably needed to pay attention, close attention to this one," said Weston.
Nic Cederberg is on a meal break at his brother's house. He drops his cold sandwich and takes off in hot pursuit.
Nic on the radio: "What do we know about this guy, anything? Does he have friends, family?"
And Nic knows the rural area the fugitive killer is in better than most. Within minutes he's racing at more than 100 miles per hour. Sure enough, Nic is the first to spot the suspected killer in the white Mitsubishi. He's parked with a loaded gun ready to kill again. Nic hits his spotlight. The suspect hits the gas. And Nic gives chase.
"I'm in pursuit of this guy."
Other cops rush to help Nic out. Among them is Officer Joseph Twigg.
"I was going as fast as my car could go trying to catch up because they had a pretty good lead on me," said Twigg.
Nic continues to chase the fugitive killer, waiting for backup to join him.
"I have a lot of units coming up with me at some point here, but I'm solo right now."
"My car wasn't fast enough. I couldn't get there fast enough," said Weston.
But now, just like Jordan Weston, Joseph Twigg has an eerie feeling too.
Then, a chilling report from Nic, who's suddenly dodging bullets.
"He's shooting at me."
The killer slows down, but keeps firing back at Nic from out of his car window.
"Fifteen miles an hour, he shot rounds at me. He's still shooting at me. Shooting more rounds."
Some units are having trouble finding Nic's location.
"We didn't know exactly where they were at, and he's reporting at this time 'He's shooting at me,'" said Twigg.
But Nic hasn't been hit, and appears to have the fleeing killer trapped.
"Coming to a dead end."
Suddenly the police radio crackles with a call for help.
"I've been shot!"
Cops know one of their own is down.
"Code Zero, Code Zero. Trooper down."
Then the most terrifying sound of all.
"All of a sudden it was just radio silence," said Twigg.
Oregon State Trooper Nic Cederberg is chasing a crazed killer on the loose, dodging bullets the fleeing fugitive's firing back at him from his car window.
Washington County Sheriff's Sergeant Jordan Weston is especially concerned for Nic Cederberg's safety. They're buddies, and went through the police academy together.
It's not clear if other units might already be there with Nic. Cops monitoring their radios don't know if it's Nic or another state trooper who's been shot.
"It got really, really, eerily quiet and this sense of dread I think could probably be felt within everybody on that radio channel," said Sherwood Police Officer Joseph Twigg. "And now we can't get a hold of this guy."
Then it's mayhem. Cops are frantically trying to find the location of the shooting.
"I'm coming up behind you. I don't know where the suspect's at."
Patrol cars finally begin to arrive at the scene. And they're rushing to see exactly what's happened, which cop is down, and more importantly if he's alive. Cops find Nic Cederberg's patrol car sitting nose to nose with the fugitive killer's car.
"The overheads were on," said Sgt. Weston. "There was at least two other cars behind his, and then I saw down on the ground an officer laying face down."
But there's no sign of the fugitive killer, James Tylka, who had shot his estranged wife Katelynn dead at their home just hours earlier. And cops fear he could be hiding in the dark woods, poised to pick them off one by one.
So now, as several officers tend to their fallen brother, the rest are hunting for the crazed gunman who shot him. They warn curious neighbors to take cover. The cops spread out. They have their guns drawn, ready to pull the trigger at the slightest movement in the dark, praying they get Tylka before he gets them.
"Whoever he came across, whoever happened to come across him that night I think was gonna be in his sights," said Twigg.
Officer Joseph Twigg, armed with a rifle, suddenly gets a strange feeling.
"I told somebody, 'Hey, cover my left,' it felt exposed, you know. Something about the left felt exposed," said Twigg. "He moved up and he shines his light there. I just remember it catching my peripheral, was this face sitting in the bushes."
The chilling sight is frozen in Twigg's mind.
"That face said to me that he wasn't done. The look on his face, I will never forget it. It was pure hatred. It was that he wasn't giving up at that time," Officer Twigg tells Crime Watch Daily.
Tylka has his finger on the trigger of a pistol, ready to fire.
"And he's looking right at us, and the next thing I know a shot popped off, and I was turning and I fired," said Twigg. He believes he hit Tylka.
That sets off a massive explosion of gunfire from other cops. The blazing gunfight still echoes in Twigg's mind. He believes the killer was counting on taking him down, and then committing a Christmas night massacre.
"He was planning on shooting whoever the first person was to come up and try to render aid. He was banking on more people just running up to help him," said Twigg.
Instead, Tylka is found lying dead and covered head to toe in bullet wounds. One of them was later determined to have been self-inflicted.
But the only casualty suffered by the police is the one officer dying on the ground by the side of his patrol car. And to the horror of friends and fellow cops, it's Oregon State Police Trooper Nic Cederberg barely clinging to life after taking more than a dozen bullets.
"Code Zero, Code Zero, trooper down."
Now Nic is moving, but barely conscious as devastated cops gather around him, including his old police academy buddy Jordan Weston.
"I remember seeing Officer Twigg tending to him," said Sgt. Weston.
"Hey Nic, it's Twigg, all right? Stay with me buddy."
Twigg and Cederberg are old buddies too. They'd gone through basic SWAT team training together.
"And Nic's like, 'I'm shot in the head, I'm shot in the head,'" said Twigg.
"And I jumped over Officer Twigg and then laid on the ground in front of Nic," said Weston. "It was a loud scene. So I had to get my face close to his, and I remember telling him, 'Nic, it's Jordan,' and at that time he was just face down."
"Relax, OK, just relax."
"He repeated my name and it was like, exhilarating, because I knew he was still alive," said Weston.
Oregon State Trooper Nic Cederberg raced after a gunman who had just taken a life. But now after a wild shootout, it's doctors who are racing to save Nic's life. And at first glance, it doesn't look good.
"Hey, hey, hey. Stay with us buddy, you're good, just lay there. We got you."
Nic Cederberg clings to life by a thread after getting hit by more than a dozen bullets in a wild shootout with crazed fugitive James Tylka, who had just killed his estranged wife.
"Nic, how you feeling, man?"
Now the 31-year-old Oregon state trooper is being rushed to the hospital, where his frantic wife Hayley is waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
"I just stood there, and I waited and I waited and I waited," Hayley Cederberg tells Crime Watch Daily.
Hayley, also a cop, had been on patrol for the Portland P.D. when she got the terrifying news that Nic had been shot.
"I didn't believe it at first. I didn't believe it. I was in denial," Hayley said.
Until she got her first glimpse of him.
"They pulled him out of the ambulance and he was just covered in bullet holes. He looked dead," said Hayley. "That moment I will never forget. I will never forget. Covered. They were everywhere. Arms, chest, hip, I mean everywhere. I thought he was dead, and I felt in that moment I had lost my husband."
Nic is the love of Hayley's life.
"We met at the police academy. He was in my class," said Hayley.
And for the love of Nic, Hayley would break a promise she'd made to her father, who was also a police officer.
"I always told my dad 'I'm not gonna date a cop, I'm not gonna date a cop. Don't worry,'" said Hayley. "And then I met Nic and he was just too adorable, so I had to date him."
Now Nic's wife of just 18 months is praying for him to stay with her as doctors battle to save him.
"So the surgeon walks in the for the first time and I hold my breath," said Hayley.
He tells Hayley that her husband has possibly fatal gunshot wounds in his back and chest causing internal bleeding, a collapsed lung, broken ribs, and broken bones in both arms and hands.
"I mean, so many different sites of trauma, it was terrifying to hear. It was terrifying," said Hayley. "And he said 'Nic likely won't ever be able to walk again because he has two bullets in his spine and we don't know how bad that is.'"
It would be several agonizing days before Hayley would finally learn Nic was going to miraculously survive.
"He put his hand up, his casted hand, to give me a high five, and I just broke down in happy tears for the first time, and then I knew he would be OK," said Hayley.
When Nic is finally well enough to speak again, his first words are to Hayley.
"He just said to me, 'I am so sorry I did this to you. I love you so much,'" said Hayley. "He was more worried about me than he was about him, and he's lying there in so much pain, and he's like, 'I'm sorry I almost ruined all of your Christmases.'"
But now Nic is Hayley's Christmas miracle. Alive, determined to walk again, and forever grateful. A real-life hero to us all, who is unbelievably humble.
"I told my wife I loved her and I told her I was just doing my job, 'cause I don't think anything I did that night was any more than what was expected of me," Nic Cederberg tells Crime Watch Daily.
Nic is just happy to be alive, even though he would be hospitalized for 48 days, ultimately undergoing more than a dozen surgeries, and still ongoing physical therapy. Hayley stayed by his side the whole time to comfort him and, against all odds, getting him back on his feet again.
"She's an amazing girl and I am very lucky to have her as my wife," said Nic. "I don't think I could do this without my wife Hayley. She's just helped me unbelievably through this."
And now, 10 months after he was shot, Nic is back home with her again, getting around in a wheelchair and on crutches, Hayley still nursing him back to health.
"I'm going to come out on top, 100 percent, and I know that without a doubt. I might struggle a little bit and go through some stuff, but I'll be on top, I promise," said Nic.
This is the very first time that Nic Cederberg has been physically and emotionally strong enough to talk about that horrifying night his life nearly came to a tragic end.
"I was probably laying right here and I remember the dirt when I dropped my gun," said Nic.
Cederberg takes Crime Watch Daily back to the very spot it happened, reliving the horror of his own heroic one-on-one shootout with James Tylka just before other cops could get there to kill the desperate fugitive.
Did Cederberg think he would die here that night?
"I came really close," said Nic. "I came really close. Yeah, the moment of choosing to live or die was a memory I'll never forget going through that."
And even as Nic sits at home today, he can never forget the first time he spotted the suspect, parked and waiting to kill again.
"He was backed off the road about 50 feet with his parking lights on," Nic tells Crime Watch Daily. "And as I went by I hit my flashlight to see if it was him. And that was him. He was the suspect.
"You know, I could have probably sworn he smiled at me. He was waiting, I know that he was waiting there for a cop. He was ready to do something to a police officer," said Nic. "I activated the overhead lights and I could hear his engine rev, and he took off and went back the way I came."
Nic is on his tail.
"There was probably times when I was tripling the speed limit," said Nic. "Over 100 miles an hour."
Then suddenly Nic's racing through bullets.
"I remember him out the window with the pistol he had, and he shot back several rounds towards my patrol car," said Nic.
Finally the suspect turns onto a dead-end road, where Nic wrongly figures he's got his man cornered.
"And he turns around, he starts accelerating towards my vehicle," said Nic. "I exited my vehicle, stood behind my driver's door. I drew my weapon and he was coming straight at me. I started firing towards his windshield of his vehicle.
"He crashed into the front of my car," said Nic. "He was also shooting back. I don't know how many rounds, I'd say a couple rounds each shot. One of those first rounds, a bullet struck me in my hip. It knocked me to the ground. I mean I dropped like a bag of rocks. I just kept shooting.
"After I went through another 16 rounds, he knew I was reloading, and as I'm laying down, he charged to the front of my hood and started shooting straight down on top of me within probably a couple of feet," said Nic. "At that point I was nearly lights out. I was almost at the end, and he took the gun out of my hand."
The killer aims Nic's own pistol directly at his head.
"Kind of an execution. One more shot," said Nic.
Nic's already taken 12 bullets, seven of them to the body, with the five embedded in his vest.
Thirteen turns out to be Nic's lucky number.
Oregon State Trooper Nic Cederberg has already been hit by 12 bullets in a blazing one-on-one shootout with fugitive killer James Tylka.
Now as Nic lies on the ground critically wounded and partially paralyzed, Tylka holds the fallen trooper's own gun just a few feet from his head, about to execute him with bullet number 13. But by some kind of miracle the bullet misses -- literally by a hair.
"I remember the snap of the concrete when that bullet went right by the back of my head," said Nic.
The 13th bullet pierced Nic's beanie, barely grazing his head. And Nic's would-be assassin doesn't even know he missed his mark. Tylka thought Cederberg was dead.
Tylka knows other cops are about to arrive at the scene, and he runs into the woods, getting ready to pick them off one by one.
"He started to hear the sirens, and then decided to go back, and he's in the bushes, waiting, and he's got my gun," said Nic. "He was ready to ambush whoever responded."
Nic tries to warn officers who are now searching the area for himself and the fugitive killer.
"I was just doing everything I could to stay conscious," said Nic. "Once I heard the other officers arrive who were back probably 20 yards, I tried to move my arms so they'd know I was there."
And in almost a blink of an eye, James Tylka is the one who ends up lying shot dead after an epic gun battle with cops. The entire event lasted 50 seconds.
"It's amazing that I'm here to talk to you," said Nic. "I'm very blessed that the officers that responded had the training they did. And one guy in particular."
Old friend Joseph Twigg, who went through SWAT team training with Cederberg.
"He did exactly what we did in that training. To be there with his trauma kit, cut my gear off, did a blood sweep. He did it by the book," said Nic.
"Hey Nic, it's Twigg, all right? Stay with me buddy."
"I think the stars aligned that night," said Officer Twigg. "For everything that was horrifyingly bad that went wrong that night, the stars definitely aligned that Nic's still here with us."
But their other old pal Jordan Weston says Nic was the real hero for chasing the killer down and shooting it out with him one on one.
"Nic saved the lives of so many others who would have been killed by this man," said Sgt. Weston.
"The way it all unfolded, and to have both of them here, that's what kind of gets me," said Nic. "To hear Jordan's voice and you know it, 'cause I'll never forget it, and you're hearing Officer Twigg going through the motions, and he did exactly what he needed to do."
So did Nic Cederberg, who believes he wounded James Tylka early in their shootout. And he's glad he did.
"If I would have missed him, we wouldn't be here," said Nic. "I mean, I wouldn't be here at all, 'cause he could have easily just shot as many rounds as he could."
Nic's been honored for his courage under fire by police organizations from his home state of Oregon to Washington, D.C.
I was honored and proud myself just to be there among Nic's friends, family and fellow cops to see him receive the "Top Cops" award in the nation's capital.
"My wife asked me 'Knowing what you know now, would you go through it again?' And I said 'Hell yeah,'" Nic told the crowd at the ceremony.
But Nic admits his ordeal still gives him recurring nightmares.
"Every night I am in a living nightmare," said Nic. "Every night I get murdered. Every night. I mean, I'll never forget the feeling of being at the end, being there where you're just about gone."
Wife Hayley feels her husband's pain and vows to never stop trying to heal it.
"I will never leave that man. I will never hurt that man," said Hayley Cederberg. "I never want him to be hurt ever again after watching what he went through."
Hayley also says Nic's harrowing experience has brought them closer together.
"It changed how we both look at life. We both wake up every single morning just grateful to be alive and breathing, and have each other," said Hayley.
And Nic will always be Hayley's hero.
"He had a million angels watching over him that night, I mean that's for sure. The fact, that you know, he was saved that night is just incredible, and I think it had a lot to do with his heart and his fighting attitude," said Hayley.