PHILADELPHIA - As investigators continue to probe a shooting at a 4th of July fireworks show in Philadelphia that left two police officers hurt, one of the injured officers said he feels grateful that his injuries weren't far worse than they could have been.
Officer Sergio Diggs, a 14-year member of the Philadelphia Police Department, was assigned to highway patrol on Independence Day. As a large crowd gathered on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for 4th of July fireworks, Diggs and Montgomery County deputy John Foster were struck by gunfire.
A massive police response swarmed the 2500 block of Spring Garden Street as onlookers ran for safety. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway was evacuated as authorities scoured the area for a possible suspect, but eventually did not make any arrests.
Diggs told FOX 29's Mike Jerrick that he initially thought he was hit in the head by a thrown object, then noticed a large amount of blood. He described the pain he felt as being hit in the head with a sledgehammer.
"I never would have imagined it was a bullet," said Diggs, a 36-year-old husband and father to a 10-month-old. "It felt like a blunt object, maybe like getting hit in the head with a sledgehammer, if you can imagine that."
Diggs suffered a graze wound to the forehead and Foster sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder. They were both rushed to Jefferson Hospital in Center City for treatment and listed in stable condition.
Diggs said he noticed he was losing a lot of blood during the ride to the hospital and tried to focus on not passing out. A fellow officer who was in the backseat with him applied pressure to his head and encouraged him to remain conscious.
He told FOX 29 that it absolutely crossed his mind that he could die, and he thought about his wife and infant daughter during the ride to the hospital.
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Both Diggs and Foster were released from the hospital hours after the shooting. Diggs said he feels grateful that his injury wasn't any worse.
"I feel gratitude, I am grateful that I serve an awesome God, and he sought to spare my life that night, there’s no other explanation than just being blessed."
It's hard not to think that there may have been some divine intervention that helped save Diggs from further injury that night. A highly-publicized photo shows the bullet that struck Diggs lodged inside his cap.
"It is miraculous the fact that the round stopped in his hat," Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said outside the hospital after the shooting. "I think initially it went up the inside and hit his forehead and then the round stopped in his hat."
Along with the bullet, a bloodstained funeral mass card for beloved Philadelphia Police Chaplain Steven Wetzel was seen attached to the inside of the officer's hat. Wetzel was laid to rest in May after years of serving Philadelphia communities and their officers.
Bullet lodged in hat of Philadelphia officer shot during Fourth of July celebration. (John McNesby)
"I have a lot of respect for [Wetzel]," Diggs said. "I always keep a prayer card in my hat, and I thought it was fitting that, you know, it be there."
The hat that may have saved Diggs life is currently being held as evidence as authorities try to pinpoint the origin of the gunfire. Investigators on Wednesday said it's believed that the bullets were fired from the same gun from possibly more than a mile away.
"We believe now, based on no one hearing a gunshot and based on the way this bullet came down, is they were quite a distance away," Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said. Such a bullet could travel more than a mile if unimpeded, so the shooter could have been behind or to the side of the Philadelphia Museum of Art or even on the nearby expressway, he said.
Officers heard no gunshots, no one in the crowd reacted as if they heard anything, and there was no evidence of a muzzle flash, Vanore said. Given the distance, he said it's unlikely the officers were targeted.
As traumatic of an experience as the Fourth of July fireworks shooting was for Diggs and his family, he says he has no plans of quitting despite his wife urging him to. He plans on returning to work in the future and didn't rule out patrolling the 4th of July fireworks in 2023.
"When they tell me I'm good to go, I'm going to have a little input in that, I'm going to take my time to just heal and make sure that mentally I'm comfortable," Diggs said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report