ANGLETON, Texas -- A retired Houston police officer hailed as a hero after he survived a shooting is now in serious trouble with the law.
Danny Vaughan, who was shot by a deranged gunman who opened fire inside a police substation in 1993, has been charged with indecency with a child in connection with a long-running investigation into the sexual abuse of a teenage girl.
Investigators in Brazoria County say Vaughan exposed himself to the girl, whose father had been sexually abusing her for years. Vaughan was involved in a relationship with the father, authorities said, and he was renting a house to the family of the victim.
"He exposed himself to her and attempted to have her touch him." said Charles Wagner, the sheriff of Brazoria County.
Vaughan's survival story has served as an inspiration to Houston's law enforcement community and he's often spoken as a guest lecturer on what he has described as "the will to survive." He has frequently visited the emergency room at Ben Taub Hospital and wept as he thanked the medical personnel who saved his life.
Vaughan's against-all-odds recovery with bullet fragments still lodged in his brain was closely followed in news reports for weeks after the shooting. He spent hours playing catch with his father as he lay in his hospital bed, looking forward to throwing the first pitch at an Astros game.
In his first public appearance after the shooting, Vaughan threw a baseball across home plate at the Astrodome, stood up from his wheelchair and staggered across the infield to shake the catcher's hand. A roaring and crying crowd gave him a standing ovation.
The latest turn of events in Vaughan's life left even the sheriff who announced his arrest in "disbelief."
"But I've been in this business a long time," Wagner said. "And I've learned that anything's possible."
That's part of the message Vaughan has delivered to police and firefighters for years in speaking engagements, which he advertised at $1600 an appearance. After former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, Vaughan happily talked with reporters about his recovery and offered himself as an example of a gunshot victim who nonetheless enjoyed what he described as "a great quality of life."
"I'm doing it all, man," he bragged.
Vaughan surrendered at the Brazoria County Jail early Wednesday morning and he was later freed on bond. Authorities said he was the last of four suspects charged in connection with the sexual abuse case.
Investigators said they confiscated computers, cell phones, videotapes and what they described as "digital evidence showing sexual abuse of the child."
The victim's father – authorities asked reporters to withhold his name to protect the victim's identity – pled guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to 50 years, Wagner said.
Amy Gilliam,36, identified as the father's former girlfriend, pled guilty earlier this week and was sentenced to five years in prison, authorities said. Steven Watkins, identified as a friend of the girl's father, was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and is now awaiting trial, Wagner said.
If Vaughan is convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.