It was a routine call; a simple damaged property complaint that should’ve ended with a simple report and a simple investigation. But for Perryville Police Chief Keith Tarrillion, who in his early days served as a Perry County deputy, it would end with various shotgun wounds to his head, hand and back.
Jan. 6 marks the 20-year anniversary of the day the then 21-year-old deputy was shot twice by Hugo Fach, a man living in a tent about five miles south of town. According to the original Republic-Monitor article, published just days after the shooting in 1993, Fach lived alone on property in the private Perry County Lake development.
“I went to check on a property damage complaint on Highway 51 south,” said Tarrillion, now 41. “Someone had cut a fence on [a resident’s property], and they suspected it was Fach.”
Tarrillion showed up to Fach’s property, which was gated. He parked, climbed the fence and walked toward the tent, a good distance away from where his patrol car sat. After attempts to call for Fach outside the tent, Tarrillion got no response, but instead heard the very distinct click of a round being loaded into a chamber.
“I knew things were going south quickly,” Tarrillion said. “I started to take steps backward, when he came flying out of the tent.”
It was a regular standoff; Fach aimed his shotgun at Tarrillion, and Tarrillion aimed his .357-cal. revolver at Fach. Fach shot first, knocking the revolver from the deputy’s grip and sending pellets through his hand, some going straight through.
“It was like a firecracker blew up in my hand,” he said. “But imagine that like 15 times over.”
Immediately, Tarrillion picked up his gun from the ground and tried to fire, but it malfunctioned. His only option was to flee. As he did, Fach, from roughly 40 yards away, shot at Tarrillion a second time, this time hitting the right side of his face and back.
He reached his car and pulled the shotgun from inside, but Fach was nowhere to be seen.
Quickly, he called dispatch, and a former chief deputy told Tarrillion to leave the area. He got as far as The Switch (what was once an old tavern a few miles from Perryville), but he was dizzy and losing blood.
“I remember looking in the mirror when I was driving away,” he said. “I was a little freaked out by all the blood, and the holes in my face. I couldn’t believe what had happened.”
He parked at the tavern, and two city officers, as well as an ambulance, arrived to take Tarrillion to the hospital.
Meanwhile, a manhunt began in the heavily wooded area where Fach lived on his 40 acres of property. Sheriff departments from surrounding areas, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the FBI scoured the area for the man who had just shot a law enforcement officer.
“When [Fach] saw them, he fled on foot,” Tarrillion said. “They caught him when he went back to his tent.”
Tarrillion sustained a compound fracture in his hand, the bone in his index finger protruding through the tip. Several pellets were nestled in his hand, his head and his back. He underwent surgery the following day.
Today, Tarrillion still has small scars on his left hand, and pellets in his head that were never removed for fear that extracting them would cause more problems.
Fach was found not guilty for reason of insanity. A year ago, Tarrillion received a letter from the state, citing that Fach was still residing in a mental hospital, though he’s not sure if he’s there today.
After only a few weeks of recuperation, Tarrillion returned to work, but for the Perryville Police Department, of which he’s worked for the last 20 years.
“I was ready to come back to work,” he said. “I really never had any doubts about returning.”
He said these days, he doesn’t think much about that fateful day, but since then, he’s on constant alert when his police officers have to answer to weapons calls.
“It’s very seldom that I think about it — unless it happens to another officer,” he said.
Regardless, Tarrillion says there’s no point in dwelling.
“At the time, I didn’t understand why he did it,” Tarrillion said. “But you can’t dwell on what happened. You have to move forward.”