TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Jared Rowley didn't expect to open the door on a career in law enforcement.
"I was going to be a teacher," he recalls. "That changed (and) I was going through an EMT basic class. I just wanted to help people out."
A chance encounter with a stranger steered life in a new direction
"For four hours of my life in Dover, Kansas, I didn't know if I was going to live or not," he said.
The date was September 12, 2009. Jared and his wife Lindsay were newlyweds, having returned from their destination wedding just days earlier.
"I looked out the window because I heard this huge crash and I saw a van just wrecking into our tree in our front yard and a guy getting out," Rowley said. "I thought it was an accident so I started running out, and that's when I heard four gunshots and I was like, 'Ooh, umm.....this isn't an accident anymore.'"
The driver was Jesse Dimmick. Jared and Lindsay didn't know Dimmick was a fugitive, wanted for murder in Colorado, and spotted in Geary County, sparking a huge manhunt the day before. Jared got Lindsay to the basement as Dimmick came through the front door.
"We had a small confrontation where he did pull out his knife," he said.
Visiting with 13 NEWS shortly after the incident in 2009, Lindsay recalled how she could hear the two men scuffling upstairs, and feared for her husband's safety. Eventually, she decided to join him upstairs, and introduced herself to their uninvited guest.
Together, the Rowleys made a plan - befriend Dimmick, and keep him calm. They were able to get messages to people, including an aunt who actually knocked on the door. Lindsay told her Dimmick was inside, then slammed the door.
Four hours later, they saw their opening.
"We got to the point where we had him calmed down enough to relax and he messed up and he let me and my wife go change clothes, and when he did that, we had enough time to escape and run out the front door," Rowley said.
While the situation ended and the couple was safe, it wasn't truly over.
"It changed me 100 percent," Rowley said. "The way I look at life, the way I take each day."
It also drove him to a new career. In 2013, he became a Topeka Police officer. The training, he said, gave him confidence in how he reacted during the incident.
"The whole time I was thinking I had to make sure my wife was safe," he said. "I play over and over in my mind, 'Did I do the right thing?'"
It also made him realize how valuable his perspective could be.
"It's very few people that had those experiences, so if I can help somebody, because I've had the experience, to see what people are going through, I figured I would maybe owe that to the people out there," he said.
Especially the victims, Rowley said, because he knows what they feel. He and his wife never returned to the house, and never forget those four hours.
"Still to this day I wake up in the middle of the night to make sure everything is good, I can go around and make sure all the doors are locked," he said.
But he also knows you move forward, appreciating each day and helping others do the same.
"Live, laugh, love; don't take it for granted - anything can happen," he said.
Rowley says he is working toward an assignment with TPD's response team as a crisis negotiator.
As for Jessie Dimmick, he is serving an 11-year sentence for kidnapping and other charges. His earliest release date is June 2019. After that, he will go to Colorado to serve a 37-year sentence for second degree murder.