03/09/2012 02:58 pm ET Updated Mar 12, 2012

Cops On Reddit: When A Criminal Saved My Life

In October 2005 in Orange County, Fla., sheriff's deputy Adam Pierce was shot twice in the head and neck while trying to arrest a man who was selling crack cocaine.

The second shot entered Pierce at a downward angle, puncturing his lung and getting lodged in his spine. Pierce miraculously survived, but was left paralyzed from the abdomen down. He was only 25.

About a week after the shooting, the investigating officer of the case visited Pierce in the hospital. He told Pierce that police had caught the perpetrator, Jeffery Forbes, 23. The officer then told Pierce that they had managed to catch Forbes thanks to the assistance of a witness.

The witness, it turned out, was a man that Pierce had arrested two weeks prior for cocaine possession.

"He was selling dope," Pierce, now 32, recalled of the arrest. "We got into a fight and afterwards, I did what I always do. I dusted him off, treated him like a human being. We talked and he got a little emotional. I let him smoke a cigarette and used my cellphone to call his girlfriend for him," he told The Huffington Post.

Pierce, who had worked a high-crime area in Orange County for many years, added that he always tried to develop a good rapport with the people he came into contact with, including those he arrested.

"It's important to have mutual respect," Pierce said. "I always reminded myself that these guys, they have their own life, they have loved ones too."

It was this positive rapport, Pierce believes, that encouraged the witness to come forward, ultimately leading to Forbes' arrest.

"I mean, wow -- for that guy to do that, it took a lot of guts. It felt good to know that he thought highly enough of me to have stepped forward to help. If he hadn't, it would have been very difficult to find the guy," Pierce said.

Forbes, a fugitive who Pierce said had been arrested more than 26 times before the shooting, is currently serving a life sentence.

Pierce's story was the subject of much debate and praise on a recent Reddit thread that discussed the relationship between the police and the public.

Several officers on the thread said that they usually show leniency to people who commit misdemeanors, such as traffic offenses, and several emphasized the importance of abiding by ethical codes of conduct. One user wrote that she tries to not arrest "a parent in front of a small child," while others shared examples of police officers who have treated them with generosity and respect.

"I've learned over the years that the people I'm nice to today may be the ones who come to my rescue tomorrow," wrote one police officer who goes by the username Diplomad.

He then went on to tell his own story about the time two gang members came to his aid when he was attacked by three men.

Like Pierce, Diplomad said he maintained good relationships in the neighborhood that he frequently worked in. And it was in this same neighborhood that Diplomad was attacked.

"What they didn't count on is the fact I know a lot of these residents on a first name basis. Even some of the gang bangers, I have a mutual respect with," Diplomad wrote.

Sure enough, two gang members who Diplomad said he had "given a huge break to a few weeks prior" rushed in and intervened. A few minutes later, Diplomad's backup arrived.

"Had these guys not helped me, I dont think I'd be here," he wrote. "I left that scene with 3 broken ribs, a concussion, and a broken hand. I was a bloody mess. It's not everyday you see a police officer hug (painfully) two known gang bangers."

One user, GroundhogExpert, wrote: "There are some bad cops out there. Sadly, it's the bad ones that get the most publicity. But more often than not, cops are decent people who want to protect the public and fill a valuable social role."

Commenting on Diplomad's story as username deps132, Pierce, who is now confined to a wheelchair but still works for the sheriff's office in a civilian role, said that he is very grateful to the man who helped put Forbes behind bars.

"I tell this story to every new recruit class I teach in the hopes that it can influence them to understand that just because you're a cop doesn't mean you're better than someone else," wrote Pierce.