An off-duty Oklahoma County sheriff's major and chief financial officer was shot early Saturday, officials said.
Maj. John Waldenville, 60, was shot just after midnight while walking money from Cattlemen's Steakhouse, 1309 S Agnew Ave., to a bank around the corner, Sheriff John Whetsel said.
Waldenville was shot once over his right eye. The bullet destroyed his eye and caused multiple facial fractures, but ricocheted downward inside his skull, causing no brain damage, Whetsel said.
A surgery that was anticipated to take 6 to 8 hours was completed in less than four hours, he said.
Waldenville remained in critical condition Sunday at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, a hospital spokeswoman said.
“Every indication is that this is a survivable wound, but we're taking it one moment at a time,” Whetsel said.
John Waldenville — who was in uniform and armed — was ambushed by the shooters on the sidewalk just north of the restaurant, Whetsel said.
The robbers came from behind or from the side of a pharmacy and shot him, then fled with the money bag, Whetsel said.
“He was targeted for this assault. He never had an opportunity to go for his gun. It was still strapped when the cowards shot him in the head,” Whetsel said.
No arrests have been made, but officers and deputies are searching for two black men wearing hooded sweatshirts, Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said.
“They've been out there working all night and will continue until we have these two in custody,” Whetsel said.
Waldenville, a 25-year veteran of the sheriff's office, has a master's degree in business administration and is the supervisor of the administrative services bureau, Whetsel said. He also worked off-duty at the restaurant on a regular basis.
“He is a very key part of our management team,” he said.
Waldenville's wife and one of his sons, as well as numerous deputies and their families, have been with Waldenville at OU Medical Center since he was shot.
“I was going to go down and sit with him yesterday in Cattlemen's and visit with him, and I ended up going on to the house and told him I'd see him in a little bit and said, ‘I'll call you or you call me.' So I called him about 11:59 and he didn't answer, and I knew he was either probably taking something over or he was busy or his phone was charging and he'd call me right back, and the next thing I know, I had another deputy at my door,” wife Marjorie Waldenville said.
“I didn't realize the extent of his injuries until right before we'd gotten here to the hospital ... It's been very, very hard,” she said.
“He's a strong individual. He won't let this get him down. Not at all. It's going to be a long road, but he will persevere, and I will be there right with him every step of the way,” she said.
“It's just been a big shock. Once you finally get here and see the condition that he's in, I think it really just hits home,” son Jason Waldenville said.
“You always see it on the news, and you feel bad for that person and their family, but you just don't ever really think it's going to hit home,” he said.
Spreading the news
Oklahoma County Treasurer Butch Freeman said he received the news shortly after the shooting and helped spread news to other county employees early Saturday.
“We're still numb. We really, truly are. With each bit of news we're getting, we're a little more encouraged, but he's still got a long path ahead of him,” Freeman said.
“He is a very well-respected part of the Oklahoma County community. There is no better loved employee in Oklahoma County than John Waldenville,” he said.
“There's some anger in there, as well, make no mistake about it. What a cowardly thing to do,” Freeman said.
Whetsel said that in addition to the local law officers and government employees that called John Waldenville a friend, he also had received numerous phone calls from those he'd met across the country.
“He's got the Waldenville family and the sheriff's office family,” Whetsel said.
Contributing: Staff Writer Michael Kimball
How to help
The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office Fraternal Order of Police Local No. 155 is organizing a fundraiser for Maj. John Waldenville. A golf tournament will be at 8 a.m. June 27 at Silverhorn Golf Course in Oklahoma City. Cost is $100 per person. Lunch is included, and there will be a silent auction. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.