DALLAS -- A bullet may have endangered Steve Palermo's ability to walk again, but the American League umpire said yesterday that he has his "game face on" and is eager to begin intense rehabilitation.
Palermo, in his first public statement since he was shot while chasing a robbery suspect, acknowledged that his recovery will require a long effort at the Dallas Rehabilitation Institute.
"The DRI team and I are working toward one common goal and that's for me to walk again," he said in a written statement. "I understand it won't happen overnight, but I've got my game face and I'm ready to play ball."
Palermo was shot in the back July 6 after chasing a suspect who was robbing a waitress outside Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant. He had gone there after working a game between the Texas Rangers and the California Angels.
As Palermo and former Southern Methodist University football player Terence Mann restrained the suspect, three accomplices drove by and shot the two men, wounding Mann in the neck and arm, officials have said. Three men and a juvenile were arrested a short time later and charged in connection with the shootings.
The 41-year-old umpire received an outpouring of support, including a letter from former President Ronald Reagan, who said Palermo's conduct exemplified "the highest traits of courage."
But Palermo downplayed his actions.
"Some people have called me a hero," Palermo said in his statement. "But I want you to know that I was just doing what any good citizen would do for another person. I got caught in a situation, and I did what I thought was right.
"My parents are the real heroes because they taught me to do what is right, no matter what the cost."
The bullet that struck Palermo creased his kidney and damaged his lower spine, doctors said. It left little feeling in his lower legs and only limited strength in his upper thighs, said Dr. John Milani of the Dallas Rehabilitation Institute.
Early attempts by Palermo to use his legs have encouraged doctors, Milani said. And Palermo's good physical condition and strong attitude should help in the healing process, he said.